The new tanker project of the US Air Force is quite likely to be hit by at least another year of delays, judging by a fresh report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). According to the official American watchdog the proposed flight test period of only three months before the Pentagon needs to decide if production gets the green light. Nobody really doubts that the go-ahead will come, but the GAO wants Washington to base the decision on thorough data – not on rushed data.
“Boeing remains at risk of not being able to demonstrate the aerial-refueling capabilities in time to meet the new production decision date due to late parts deliveries, software defects, and flight test cycle assumptions, which could result in additional delays,” the GAO report reads. “Significantly less testing will now be conducted prior to the decision (to move on with the production).”
The GAO wishes that the planned flight test program of 13 months will be respected. Planned for July 2015 the first of four 767-200s-to-be-KC-46 will take to the skies with the in-flight refuelling equipment installed, with the Pentagon currently still holding onto a production decision date in October. True, the prototype KC-46 did make its first flight in December 2014, but as just another cargo aircraft without all the stuff needed to make it a tanker.
However, Boeing is confident that it will meet all what is expected to do, within the time frame that has been set.
The US Air Force plans to buy 175 KC-46A Pegasus tankers to start replacing its aging KC-135 fleet of over 400 aircraft. As Airheadsfly.com editors experienced this month themselves those KC-135s are still doing a great job:
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The pre-KC-46A on its maiden flight on 28 December 2014 (Image © Boeing)