Wednesday, April 18, 2018

First fully capable KC-46 tanker aircraft delayed

Under the Air Force's KC-46 modernization program, commercial aircraft are being converted by The Boeing Company into aerial refueling tankers. The program is one of the Air Force's highest acquisition priorities, and will replace a third of the aging fleet.

We found that the program, now in its seventh year, is meeting its estimated acquisition cost. However, the program office projects that Boeing will not deliver the first 18 fully capable aircraft until May 2019—21 months later than initially planned,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a recent report. Boeing won the competition to develop the KC-46 aircraft in February 2011.

The total acquisition cost estimate for the KC-46 refueling tanker aircraft remained stable over the last year at $44.4 billion. This is about $7.3 billion, or about 14 percent, less than the original estimate of $51.7 billion, the GAO said.

Boeing faces the following risks and challenges and is trying to address them:
updating test aircraft to the correct configuration to complete remaining tests;
completing flight tests at a pace that is almost double its monthly average;
updating test plans to reflect a more realistic schedule for certifying aircraft, such as F-16 fighters and C-17 cargo planes, to be refueled by a KC-46;
retrofitting production aircraft to their final configuration for delivery; and
fixing a critical deficiency to keep the boom from contacting receiver aircraft outside the refueling receptacle.

The program plans to eventually field 179 KC-46 aircraft in total. These aircraft are intended to replace roughly one-third of the Air Force’s aging aerial refueling tanker fleet, comprised mostly of KC135 Stratotankers.

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