KC-46 test aircraft touches down at Edwards

  • Published
  • By Kenji Thuloweit
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs
The KC-46 program's first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C (EMD-1), departed from its home at Boeing Field in Seattle and touched down here for the first time for testing Oct. 15.

The plan is to have EMD-1 at Edwards Air Force Base for about two weeks, as Boeing and the 418th Flight Test Squadron conduct ground effects and fuel onload fatigue testing on the new tanker.

Ground effects testing will gather aerodynamic data for updating the KC-46A Pegasus simulator as well as supporting certification. Fuel onload fatigue tests will gather data to characterize the aircraft interaction typically experienced when the KC-46A is flying in receiver formation behind a current KC-135 Stratotanker or KC-10 Extender.

While the KC-46's role is to refuel other aircraft, it too may need to be refueled from other KC-10s or KC-135s to extend its range. Fuel onload fatigue testing is the first look at the KC-46 acting in that role and the interactions between the three different tankers in an aerial refueling formation.

As throughout history, Edwards AFB continues to be the premier base for flight testing the Air Force's newest capability.

"For ground effects, Edwards Air Force Base provides calm morning weather and long runways, including the lakebeds, both are requirements to take the data," said Capt. Dylan Neidorff, a KC-46 test operations engineer. "For fuel onload fatigue, Edwards has a top notch special instrumentation section who provides modifications to legacy tanker aircraft to support data collection on the 767-2C."

Neidorff said Boeing and Air Force pilots have been operating as combined crews through all of the testing at Edwards including the ferry flight from Seattle.

"This also includes flight test engineers who have been on each fuel onload fatigue flight,” he said.

Several units from both on and off base are supporting the testing. The 412th Test Engineering Group is providing special instrumentation support; the 416th Flight Test Squadron is providing chase aircraft support; and the 370th FTS is providing KC-135 tanker crew support. The 92nd Air Refueling Wing based at Fairchild AFB, Washington, is also providing the KC-135 and maintenance support, and the 60th Air Mobility Wing based at Travis AFB, California, is providing the KC-10 and maintenance personnel.

According to Neidorff, the KC-46A will return to Edwards AFB to accomplish testing in the Benefield Anechoic Chamber as well as conduct aerial refueling certifications.

The KC-46A is intended to replace the Air Force's aging tanker fleet, which has been refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. With more refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation, the KC-46A will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition force aircraft.

The 412th Test Wing at Edwards AFB is the lead developmental test organization for the KC-46 program.