Boeing is still working to fix three deficiencies related to the refueling process of the KC-46 Pegasus that must be resolved before the troubled tanker can enter service, the U.S. Air Force says.
The most worrying issue is a tendency of the tanker’s rigid refueling boom to scrape the surface of receiving aircraft. This is of particular concern for stealth aircraft such as the B-2 bomber, F-22 and F-35 fighter, if the boom causes damage to low-observable stealth coatings.
The industry-government team is currently collecting flight test data to determine how the rate and severity of these incidents compares with international norms, Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski says. This data will inform a decision on whether changes to the remote camera used for aerial refueling are needed, expected by March 2018, she said.
The camera system in the KC-46 was the best the market offered in 2012 when the aircraft was being contracted, but is not the latest technology, Air Force spokesman Col. Christopher Karns told Aviation Week in September. The remote camera is critical to the refueling process in the new tanker as the KC-46 boom operator sits near the front of the aircraft and operates the boom remotely. In legacy tankers like the KC-135, the boom operator guides the boom from the back of the plane, where he can see the receiver aircraft and the boom itself. (end of excerpt)
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