After being as much as several months ahead of schedule, “all previous schedule margin is gone” on the KC-46 Pegasus tanker program, an Air Force spokesman told Air Force Magazine. This conclusion came after the most recent schedule risk assessment of the tanker program, conducted jointly by Boeing, the KC-46 system program office, and the Defense Contracts Management Agency. The joint team “completed the SRA in order to assess realism, and set new dates if necessary, for major program events, such as first flight for the first all-up KC-46,” as well as Milestone C, which is the decision to proceed from development into series production, and whether the contractor will provide “required assets available” on-time for initial operational capability, said the spokesman. It’s not clear when the assessment was completed, but here are the results: the first flight of the all-up KC-46 was rescheduled for the July-September 2015 timeframe, and Milestone C slipped to between January and April of 2016. Two years ago, Boeing closed out critical design review a month ahead of its contract requirement, but subsequent wiring bundle and fuel management system problems have caused delays and boosted Boeing’s out-of-pocket expenses on the tanker to more than $800 million. The program office and Boeing still think they can provide the requisite 17 aircraft by August 2017, assuming no more problems crop up, the spokesman said. (See also The Tanker Nears Takeoff from the January 2014 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.