Air Force and civilian leaders broke ground on a KC-46A sustainment facility at Tinker AFB, Okla., Tuesday. “So while you view the KC-46 as something extraordinary for Tinker Air Force base, and it is, I view it as something extraordinary for our Air Force and for the United States of America. The mission simply is to have global reach for America,” Lt. Gen. Lee Levy, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, said during the ceremony. “We need a new tanker, we’re going to get a new tanker, and it’s going to be a magnificent flying machine that will help us deliver global reach, global power, and global vigilance for America, anywhere.” Levy said the campus will house hangars, ramp infrastructure, software integration labs, and engine test facilities. “So when the KC-46 is fully fielded, your United States Air Force will have the full capability to take care of that platform for the decades ahead,” he said. The service acquired 158 acres of land on the southwest side of the base for the maintenance facility in 2015, according to a Tinker release. After months of delay, the KC-46 program completed its final Milestone C-required flight test July 15. Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall’s decision to begin low-rate, initial production is expected in August. Because of the testing delays, Boeing is expected to miss the initial August 2017 deadline to deliver 18 KC-46A tankers and now plans to deliver the 18th aircraft in January 2018. Levy said the first KC-46A is expected at Tinker in 2019.
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.