On 27 January 2023, th US Department of Defense awarded Boeing a USD 2,3 billion modification to a previously awarded contract for the exercise of an option for an additional fifteen KC-46A Pegasus Lot 9 aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft. All work will be performed in Seattle (WA) and is expected to be completed by 31 August 2026.
The total KC-46 programme is hampered with a large number of deficiencies, of which the most serious one is the Remote Vision System (RVS). The problems with the RVS are various, not only motion viewed in the RVS versus what is seen by the Aerial Refueling Operators on their monitor slightly differences and can create a depth compression and curvature effect, but also blackouts and washouts on the video displays during refueling occur, caused by shadows or direct sunlight.
All RVS related problems are said to be fixed by the RVS 2.0 upgrade. According to the USAF, the Aerial Refueling Operators have nevertheless learned to refuel most types of aircraft the Air Force flies. Workarounds include software upgrades and a procedure by which receiving aircraft have to back away and approach again as the boom operators toggle between different visual displays. The results have amounted to better refueling accuracy but more delays.
As of 31 May 2022, the Pegasus had received interim capability releases that permit it to refuel 97 percent of the US Transportation Command taskings. That includes most bombers, tankers, and fighters as well as airlift and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft. The only aircraft still not approved for refueling from a KC-46A include the A-10, B-2, CV/MV-22, and E-4B.
In September 2022, the KC-46A was cleared for worldwide deployment, including combat missions. RVS 2.0 will be incorporated on new aircraft and retrofitted to existing models. It was supposed to be operational by 2024. Now, the USAF says it will not be ready until late 2025.
Scramble Magazine does like to know which batches of KC-46As belong to which Lot number. Lot 9 for fifteen aircraft is related to Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. It is known that aircraft from FY15 have been transferred to FY19 and from FY19 have been transferred to FY15 and FY21. It is unknown what is the reasoning behind this change.
FY11: 11-46001/46004 (4x), all still with Boeing
Production (Lot numbers to be confirmed):
Lot 1: FY15 15-46005/46011 (7x), four still with Boeing, one to FY19 (46007), five from FY19
Lot 2: FY16 16-46012/46023 (12x), all delivered
Lot 3: FY17 17-46024/46038 (15x), all delivered
Lot 4: FY18 18-46039/46056 (18x), all delivered
Lot 5: FY19 19-46057/46071 (15x), four to FY21 (46057/46060) and five to FY15 (46066/46070), one from FY15 (46007)
Lot 6: FY20 20-46072/46083 (12x), two delivered
Lot 7: FY21 21-46057/46060 (4x), ex FY19, all delivered
Lot 8: FY22 22-46xxx/46xxx (15x)
Lot 9: FY23 23-46xxx/46xxx (15x)
Photo by Tim Wolfe (Scramble Archive)