General Richardson gives KC-46A progress report at symposium

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The first active-duty KC-46A Pegasus is slated to arrive at Tinker Air Force Base for routine maintenance three years from now, but preparations for the new aerial refueling tanker are in full swing across the Air Force, the program’s executive officer said.


Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the Air Force Program Executive Officer for Tankers, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, delivered a comprehensive progress report 23 Aug at the 11th annual Tinker and the Primes Requirements Symposium in Midwest City.


The KC-46 program hit major milestones last month. After hundreds of hours of flight testing, the tanker was cleared for production Aug. 12.


Six days later, the Air Force ordered initial production of 19 planes in a $2.8 billion contract with Boeing.  Similar buys are scheduled annually through the 2020s, he said.


“We are off to the races,” General Richardson said.


Officials broke ground in July on the 158-acre KC-46A Tanker Sustainment Campus at Tinker. A total of 14 hangar docks are planned for the repair, maintenance and overhaul of 179 planes the Department of Defense currently plans to buy. The depot operation is expected to create more than 1,300 jobs.


The first mission-ready Pegasus is scheduled for delivery next Fall, General Richardson told the audience, but Tinker’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex won’t receive its first plane for routine maintenance until 2019.


Pegasus aircraft will be on a staggered maintenance schedule, with aircraft systems worked on every two years in an eight-year cycle, the general said. A KC-46’s first scheduled maintenance stop, for example, should last 14-16 days.


“It’s not like a KC-135 (tanker) coming in here for 160 flow days, but it’s also not coming back every five years,” General Richardson said. “It’s coming back every two years.”


Deliveries of KC-46 support equipment have already begun at McConnell AFB, KS, and Altus AFB, OK, the general said. McConnell will be the first base to fly the Pegasus aircraft in 2017, flown by both Active Duty and Reserve aircrews.  Crews will be trained at Altus.   


“If you go to those two bases now, you’ll see hangars full of support equipment,” the general said. “By and large, the whole system is getting ready to start operating this weapon system.”


The 448th Supply Chain Management Wing at Tinker will eventually handle the platform’s supply chain, the general said. Other KC-46 maintenance and sustainment operations will be based at Ogden Air Logistics Complex in Utah, and Warner Robins ALC, GA.


The joint Boeing-Air Force team is operating five KC-46s in the flight test program. Flight testing is about one-third complete, General Richardson said.


“Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson (OC-ALC commander) and I work very closely and our goal is to make sure that Tinker Air Force Base and his complex are ready,” General Richardson said.


“I think it’s a great time for Oklahoma City with all the KC-46 activity that’s going on here.”