Boeing [BA] has been awarded a contract modification worth about $10 million for a Block 1 risk-reduction study for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker.

The award, released Aug. 7, “allows for a study of risk reductions activities with regard to the development and integration of new capabilities on the initial KC-46 aircraft, referred to as Block 1,” according to the Defense Department. Work is expected to be completed by early November.

The contract modification is expected to study “risk reduction modifications with radio systems,” as well as several other capabilities, said Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey Aug. 8. No further details were provided at this time. Boeing said in May that all flight tests required before initial delivery had been completed, and the company is on schedule to deliver the first aircraft this October.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing’s KC-46 vice president and program manager, told reporters in May at the company’s tanker modification factory in Everett, Wash., that the company expected to receive a contract to begin developing future upgrades for the KC-46. (Defense Daily, May 4)

He said the contract would call for “road-mapping what a next of set capabilities would be, and then actually doing the development of those next capabilities,” adding, “We don’t actually do any work until they tell us specifically what they’re authorizing to do.”

Funds for the contract modification are being obligated from fiscal year 2017 research, development, test and evaluation dollars. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

 The company is currently awaiting supplemental type certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Ramey said. Once the aircraft is certified, the company will be approved to modify it from its original design, according to the administration. That could happen as early as this month, Ramey added.

Boeing must also receive a military type certification (MTC) award from the Air Force, he noted. That is likely to be approved closer to the first aircraft’s delivery date, he said.

“All that MTC flight testing’s done, now the Air Force and Boeing are going to have to work together on all that paperwork and documents and agreements before the Air Force provides that certificate,” he said.

In the meantime, Boeing continues to work on receiver certification for the KC-46 to fuel other aircraft, Ramey said. The company is required to complete certification for the F-16 multirole fighter aircraft, the C-17 transport aircraft and the KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft before first delivery, and has successfully certified all three aircraft, he said.

Five additional aircraft must be receiver-certified prior to the initial operating test and evaluation phase, he noted. Last week, Boeing said via Twitter that it had completed certification for the KC-46 to refuel an A-10 close-air support aircraft. The company has begun testing for F/A-18 multirole fighters and other KC-46 aircraft, and will soon begin testing for F-15 fighters and B-52 strategic bombers, Ramey said.   

Boeing is currently on contract to build 34 KC-46A aircraft for the Air Force, with the fourth lot expected to go on contract within the next couple of months, Ramey said. All 34 aircraft have been built and are in various stages of completion, he added. The service expects to buy 179 tankers in total.