The Air Force completed flight testing on July 6 for the KC-46A refueling tanker, bringing Boeing [BA] a step closer to delivering the first aircraft in October for the oft-delayed program, company officials announced on Friday.

The KC-46 concluded Military Type Certification (MTC) testing, and has now successfully demonstrated receiver testing with KC-135, F-16 and C-17 aircraft. An MTC certification sets up Boeing to meet a delivery target of 18 aircraft by April 2019.

A KC-46 refuels an A-10 during testing. Photo: Air Force.
A KC-46 refuels an A-10 during testing. Photo: Air Force.

“This is a significant achievement for the Boeing-Air Force team and continues us on our path to first delivery in October,” Mike Gibbons, Boeing program manager for KC-46A, said in a statement. “Our main focus now is obtaining the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the Federal Aviation Administration as well formal Military Type Certification from the U.S. Air Force.”

Boeing expects to receive an STC award confirming FAA certification in the next few months after completing those flight tests in April, according to Boeing KC-46 spokesperson Chick Ramey.

“The STC is one of two FAA airworthiness certifications, the other was the Amended Type Certificate, which was awarded last December, and encompasses the military systems that are installed on the 767-2C to make it a tanker. The MTC is a U.S. Air Force certification that included some maneuverability testing as well as updated Remote Vision System (RVS) testing,” Ramey told Defense Daily.

The latest round of flight testing was intended to meet the remaining 5 percent of KC-46 component evaluations, including the RVS (Defense Daily, May 4) . The Rockwell Collins [COL]-built RVS camera system, which allows operators to determine if the aircraft’s refueling boom is working properly, previously faced technical setbacks including concern over its imaging ability.

Air Force officials announced on June 20 a revised delivery schedule, that included the first KC-46 delivery in October, following several program delays related to the completion of flights tests and airworthiness certifications (Defense Daily, June 20).

Boeing received the contract to develop KC-46 in 2011, with delivery of 18 aircraft originally expected by August 2017.

“Program of record is 179 aircraft, however, USAF will likely need more tankers than that to replace all their KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft,” Ramey said in an email response to questions.

Lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee in June called on the Air Force to explore alternatives to the KC-46 in the future, with a specific focus on an optionally unmanned tanker, due to the large size of the aircraft leaving it vulnerable to attacks (Defense Daily, June 7).