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KC-10 Tankers, B-1 Bombers Can Slowly Be Retired, Lawmakers Say

Lawmakers are barring the U.S. Air Force from retiring any of its KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft while the service struggles to get the KC-46 Pegasus up and running.

In its markup of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act legislation, the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee said that the Air Force may not begin retiring any of its 379 Stratotankers until at least 2023. But it may start steady retirements of its KC-10 Extenders over the next three years, as long as it maintains a minimum requirement set by Congress.

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Air Force has high hopes AI can boost aircraft readiness, cut maintenance costs

In April 2018, an Air Force KC-135 tanker landing in Rota, Spain, suffered a failure on one of its hydraulic pumps. No spares were available at the base, so instead of performing its missions the tanker sat on the tarmac for five days waiting for repairs.

That same scenario ? involving the same pump ? repeated itself two dozen times over the last four years, and the Air Force estimates the downtime costs involving failures of one single part amounted to $6.6 million.

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KC-46 Tanker Gains FAA Approval

Boeing?s KC-46A Pegasus tanker?the aircraft intended to replace the veteran KC-135 Stratotanker in U.S. Air Force service?has been granted FAA approval, the company announced on September 4. With the KC-46A having completed the flying element of the certification requirements in July, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the Boeing 767-2C, verifying that it, and its refueling and mission avionics systems, meet FAA requirements.

Work on the STC began in 2015, including laboratory and ground tests before flight trials. Both the boom and drogue systems were assessed. Six aircraft were involved in the certification flight program. Preceding the STC approval, the baseline 767-2C was granted an FAA amended type certificate (ATC) in December 2017.

?Our Boeing/Air Force test team did an outstanding job successfully leading us through all the requirements, and we appreciate the FAA?s collaboration as well,? said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. ?This milestone is important in that it is one of the last major hurdles in advance of first delivery to the U.S. Air Force.?

AIOnline.com