Italian Air Force suspends plans for Boeing KC-46 Pegasus acquisition

Gastón Dubois

Boeing KC-46 Pegasus

The Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) decided to suspend its plans to acquire a fleet of Boeing KC-46 Pegasus in-flight refueling tankers in a surprise move.

In a succinct statement issued on June 24, Aeronautica Militare informed the Italian Ministry of Defense of its decision to suspend the procurement process for a fleet of six new KC-46 Pegasus tanker aircrafts, due to the emergence of “changing and unforeseen needs.”

Currently, the Aeronautica Militare (AM) operates a fleet of four KC-767As based on the Boeing 767-200ER -Extended Range- civilian model for its strategic transport and aerial refueling missions, but to cover its increased operational tasks, it wanted to have six aircraft of this type.

Originally, the plan was to acquire only two additional Boeing 767-300 airplanes and modify them for the multi-role transport and air tanker mission, along with the modernization of its four in-service KC-767As to match the equipment of the future six-aircraft fleet, but this option was rejected by the technical committee.

This Technical/Administrative committee, in charge of analyzing the options to meet the AM requirement, recommended buying six new KC-46As from Boeing, in a configuration compatible with the aircraft the USAF is receiving, at a cost of approximately 1.12 billion euros.

But this process was finally shelved, without the Italian Air Force going into details about the motives for the change of heart. The reason may be that, as of January this year, the KC-46 continues to have six Category 1 deficiencies. According to the U.S. Air Force classification, Category 1 deficiencies are serious failures, which can lead to severe injury, death, or even the loss of the aircraft. Most of the deficiencies involve the Remote Vision System (RVS) that allows the controller to manipulate the fuel transfer boom. Problems with lighting, poor quality images and distorted views of the aircraft led to several rough engagements, bumps and breaks with the receiving aircraft.

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