KC-46 to Enter Production

Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall approved the KC-46 program for initial production, the Air Force announced Friday. The service expects to award the first two low rate initial production lots, totaling 19 aircraft with spare parts, for a pre-negotiated $2.8 billion within the next 30 days, according to a release. “The KC-46 is ready to take the next step,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, according to the release. “Our Air Force and Boeing team stepped up to meet the recent challenges.” McConnell AFB, Kan., and Altus AFB, Okla., will be the first bases to receive aircraft. The program completed its final Milestone C-required flight test in July with the successful refueling of an A-10 after months of delay. The hook-up was the final of six refuelings required before the service could seek approval to award the contract for the first two production lots from Kendall. Refueling trials were delayed after the KC-46’s boom delivery system generated “higher-than-expected boom axial loads” during early test trials, but a hardware fix—the installment of hydraulic pressure relief valves—was successfully tested with an F-16 on July 8. Because of the testing delays, Boeing is expected to miss the initial August 2017 deadline to deliver 18 KC-46A tankers and now plans to deliver the 18th aircraft in January 2018.