The U.S. Air Force plans to issue a solicitation for support equipment (SE) for the Boeing [BA] KC-46A Pegasus tanker next month.

The future SE contract is to last five years with a five-year option.

Officials from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) mobility and training aircraft directorate at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio discussed the program in a virtual industry day in May. The officials included Air Force Col. William Ottati, the senior materiel leader, of the KC-46 program office.

The support equipment is in several categories: that designed specifically for the KC-46A; equipment needed to support the parts; equipment for nondestructive testing (NDT) of aircraft components; and common suppot equipment to reduce costs.

Companies wishing to bid on the support equipment program must be able to provide 260 specialized parts for the tanker–or 84 NDT parts–and inform the Air Force of how long parts deliveries will take.

KC-46A bases include Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; McConnell AFB, Kan.; Altus AFB, Okla.; and Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H. Last December, the Air Force named MacDill AFB, Fla., as the service’s preferred site for the next KC-46A active duty squadron.

Next month’s KC-46A SE solicitation “will provide the most accurate list of SE needed for the KC-46 program,” AFLCMC said. “The estimated demands are fluid, but the USAF anticipates the number of SE parts (demand) to directly correlate to the number of MOBs [major operating bases] that will be stood up over the next 10 years. (4 future bases currently identified [in] CONUS [continental United States]).”

Air Force plans have called for fielding 179 KC-46As by 2029 to replace the KC-135s and KC-10s. At that time, the Air Force tanker fleet would consist of the 179 KC-46As and about 300 remaining KC-135s.

The KC-46A has faced technical problems, including with the tanker’s Remote Vision System (RVS).

An improved Boeing RVS 2.0 design is to feature 4K color cameras, operator stations with larger screens, a laser ranger for refueling aircraft distance measurement and boom assistance augmented reality. While the Air Force planned to field RVS 2.0 next year, the service pushed back the timetable to March 2024, and then to October 2025 (Defense Daily, Oct. 7).