UPDATE 22 JULY 2015: USAF delays low-rate production | Boeing is struggling to get the US Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft operational. After initially denying technical issues the US aircraft manufacturer now says it needs another 536 million to fix “unexpected problems” that occurred with the fuel system of the KC-46A Pegasus.
In total 800 million so-called after-tax charges will now be used by Boeing to keep the program “on track”, meaning the first 18 aircraft to be delivered by August 2017. The total US Air Force requirement is for 179 aircraft, which could increase to more than 400 over the years if all current KC-135 Stratotankers in USAF service are to be replaced with the type.
But the Air Force is by far happy with the lack of progress being made. The low-rate production of the first 18 operational tankers planned for August is very likely not to be given a green light until late Spring or early Summer 2016, USAF sources confirmed on 22 July 2015.
The Pegasus performed the first flight of the KC-46 with its air-to-air refueling boom installed in the first week of June this year. However, the in-flight refuelling system itself was not tested, because it isn’t ready nor fully installed yet. Thereby Boeing likely misses the scheduled flight with everything installed this month, putting the tight flight test schedule under even more pressure.
Boeing’s KC-46s program has been criticized by many as being too ambitious when it comes to the time frame, with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) f.e. airing serious concerns in April.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Image of first KC-46 flight in June 2015. The boom was installed after this image was made (Image © Boeing)