The U.S. Air Force has admitted that it will not be able to deploy its new KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tankers on operational missions for at least another three to four years, due to persistent technical and quality control problems.
This comes as the service continues to take delivery of the aircraft, which have hundreds of issues still left to fix, and that appear to have extremely limited utility in the interim. The mounting delays could have cascading impacts on its plans to retire older KC-135 and KC-10 tankers in the coming years.
U.S. Air Force General Maryanne Miller, head of Air Mobility Command, which oversees the bulk of the service's cargo and tanker fleets, gave reporters the update on the long-troubled KC-46 program on the last day of the Air Force Association's main annual convention outside Washington, D.C., on Sept. 18, 2019.
The service finally accepted the first Pegasus from the manufacturer, Boeing, in January 2019, years behind schedule, after the company agreed to a roadmap for resolving significant remaining technical problems.
"When we accepted the KC-46 with known Cat One deficiencies, we did so with the belief that it offered the fastest route to achieve limited operational capability and meet an urgent warfighter requirement," General Miller said. "Eight months have passed since our first delivery and Boeing has not made the progress needed in addressing this deficiency," she added, referring to the RVS specifically.
"This is a pass-fail requirement," she continued. "We’ll get it [the KC-46A] in the fight in the next four years." (end of excerpt)
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