WASHINGTON --- KC-46 Pegasus aircraft are now expected to arrive at their first basing locations by late summer or early fall 2017.
The KC-46 was most recently scheduled for a spring 2017 arrival at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, the first formal training unit location; and McConnell AFB, Kansas, the first active duty-led Pegasus main operating base. But after a schedule risk assessment, Air Force officials determined the fielding timeline needed to be extended.
Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the program executive officer for tankers, said, “Technical challenges with boom design and issues with certification of the centerline drogue system and wing air refueling pods have driven delays to low rate production approval and initial aircraft deliveries.
“Throughout KC-46 development, the Air Force remained cautiously optimistic that Boeing would quickly address these issues and meet the original goal,” he continued. “However, we understand that no major procurement program is without challenges and the Air Force remains committed to ensuring all aircraft are delivered as technically required.”
The multi-year tanker procurement program remains one of the service's top priorities and the Air Force will continue to work with Boeing to find ways to mitigate delays.
“The Air Force considers the KC-46 a critical capability and it's important to take the time necessary to get it right,” Richardson said. “There is no increased cost to the government as a result of these changes.”
Boeing continues to work on a solution to address the higher than expected boom axial loads recorded during C-17 Globemaster III air refueling demonstration flights.
The government now expects to make a low rate initial production decision, known as a Milestone C, in August 2016 to allow Boeing additional time to fix the loads issue and accomplish the remaining aerial refueling demonstrations with the required C-17 and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. Following a successful decision, the Air Force will immediately award a contract for the first two production lots, followed by Lot 3 in January 2017.
The KC-46A will provide improved capabilities, including boom and drogue refueling on the same sortie, worldwide navigation and communication, cargo capacity on the entire main deck floor, receiver air refueling, improved force protection and survivability, and multi-point air refueling capability.
At this time, aircraft deliveries to Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire, remain unchanged at spring 2018.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: National Defense magazine reported May 28 that the latest “problems first surfaced during refuelings of a C-17 cargo aircraft in January. Tests revealed load issues with the boom telescope control loop, which impeded the transfer of fuel from the tanker to the C-17. Boeing has been working to fix the higher-than-expected boom axial loads recorded during C-17 air refueling demonstration flights.”
Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said company executives never stated the problem had been fixed, although they do believe that a solution is forthcoming. “There is no new issue, it's simply that the issue has been more complex than we initially realized,” Ramey said in a statement to National Defense. “We are continuing work to resolve it.”)