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KC-46A tanker completes successful first flight

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jet Fabara)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio (AFNS) --  A KC-46A Pegasus tanker (EMD-2) made history with its first flight Sept. 25 from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, landing a few hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle.

"The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "This flight represents progress and brings us a step closer to fielding this much needed aircraft."

The EMD-2 completed its maiden flight as a KC-46A tanker, which will now begin flight testing in support of the next program milestone.

"Today is just the first flight of many for this aircraft as we deliver these next generation tankers," said Brig. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson, program executive officer for tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. "Like the KC-135 (Stratotanker) and KC-10 (Extender) before it, this aircraft will be called upon for generations to come to deliver capability, whether support equipment, supplies, medical aide, or personnel. However, its primary mission will always be to fuel the fight. The team at Boeing has done a remarkable job creating an entirely new aircraft that will soon become the backbone of our ability to project power anywhere in the world."

The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 KC-46A refueling tankers to begin recapitalizing the aging tanker fleet. This flight is an important step toward meeting the required assets available date -- a milestone requiring 18 KC-46A aircraft and all necessary support equipment to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs by August 2017.

"Today's flight is the call to duty for this new aircraft," said Col. Christopher Coombs, KC-46 system program manager. "EMD-2 will be conducting the heavy lifting of testing in demonstrating the capabilities of this aircraft and leading the program down the path toward its Milestone C decision."

Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina; Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts; and Grissom ARB, Indiana are all candidate bases for the new KC-46A Pegasus location. The KC-46As will begin arriving at the first Air Force Reserve-led Global Mobility Wing in fiscal year 2019. A decision on the first Air Force Reserve led basing action will be made sometime in the next few months.