In a Good Place: At about one-fifth of the way through its development phase, the Air Force’s KC-46A tanker program is “currently in a good place,” said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, KC-46A program director and the service’s tanker program executive officer. “From a cost, schedule, and technical performance standpoint, everything is stable,” he said in a Sept. 18 briefing at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. However, he cautioned that, as with every large defense acquisition program, “there are still plenty of opportunities” for challenges to arise. But the risks the program now faces “are very much typical for a development program,” perhaps even less severe since the KC-46A will be the derivative of a 767 commercial airplane and not a military-unique design, he noted. Thompson said his focus right now is on getting the tanker through its critical design review next summer. The review is meant to confirm that the tanker’s detailed design is mature and ready to proceed to manufacturing. Boeing is under contract to deliver 18 tankers, including four that will be used initially as test assets, by 2017. Boeing is scheduled to deliver all 179 KC-46As by 2028, said Thompson.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.