Air Force awards Boeing $3.1 billion for next KC-46A production lot; four tankers for Israel

By Michael Marrow / September 1, 2022 at 5:36 PM

Boeing will build 15 new KC-46A Pegasus tankers for the Air Force and four for Israel for a total contract value of approximately $3.1 billion, according to an award announcement posted by the Defense Department yesterday.

The award for the Air Force tankers totals $2.2 billion for Production Lot 8 aircraft, the contract announcement states, and the sale to Israel has a ceiling of $927 million.

The Air Force aims to procure up to 179 Pegasus tankers by fiscal year 2027, though the program has been beset by delays.

Officials recently announced a deal with Boeing to fix a significant problem with the aircraft’s Remote Vision System, which boom operators use to guide refueling. The fix, labeled RVS 2.0, will be part of the Israeli production deal and will include “non-recurring engineering design and test,” according to the award announcement.

Despite numerous challenges with fielding the Pegasus, including a recent admission by Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall that the service “didn’t look closely enough” at the aircraft’s design, Kendall and other officials have recently downplayed the possibility of a follow-on tanker.

The Air Force is formulating requirements for its KC-Y tanker that will serve as a bridge to next-generation refueling platforms. The requirements are expected to be released this fall, a top program official recently stated, which would inform an acquisition decision sometime in spring 2023.

Officials are weighing whether to hold a competition for the KC-Y contract, with Boeing’s Pegasus and Lockheed Martin’s LMXT positioned as competitors. However, officials have so far emphasized that the likelihood of a competition has decreased, suggesting that the service would opt to gradually modify the KC-46A rather than field a new aircraft.

Work on the Air Force tankers is expected to conclude by Nov. 30, 2025, the award announcement reads, whereas work on the Israeli refuelers is scheduled to finish by the end of 2026.