Boeing and the U.S. Air Force launched a company-built KC-46A Pegasus tanker Friday for the aircraft’s maiden flight and in preparation of its aerial refueling test flights with other military aircraft later this year.
The Air Force said Friday the plane took off at 1:24 p.m. Pacific time from Paine Field, Washington, and landed at Boeing Field in Seattle about four hours later.
The company was awarded a contract in February 2011 to design and build as many as 179 KC-46As for the military service.
Boeing said its test pilots flew the tanker aircraft up to 35,000 feet as they evaluated the performance of its engine, flight control and environmental systems during the maiden voyage.
The U.S. Defense Department could hand down a decision on the program’s Milestone C production and deployment phase in 2016 and expects the KC-46A to achieve initial operational capability by August 2017.
Boeing designed the aircraft to refuel aircraft of the U.S. Air Force and allied forces, as well as transport military personnel and cargo.