After months of speculation, the Air Force announced on Friday it now expects Boeing to miss the August 2017 deadline to deliver 18 KC-46A tankers. The Air Force extended the fielding timeline after a schedule risk assessment. Now, Altus AFB, Okla., the first formal training unit, and McConnell AFB, Kan., the first Active Duty-led KC-46A operating base, will begin receiving the first Pegasus aircraft “by late summer or early fall 2017,” rather than spring 2017 as originally expected, according to a May 27 release. Boeing will now deliver the 18th aircraft in January 2018, according to a company release. Deliveries to Pease ANGB, N.H., have not changed and are still slated from spring 2018, according to the USAF release. “Technical challenges with boom design and issues with certification of the centerline drogue system and wing air refueling pods have driven delays to low-rate production approval and initial aircraft deliveries,” said Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, program executive officer for tankers, in the release.
Boeing has not yet found a solution to “higher than expected boom axial loads” discovered during a flight test with a C-17 Globemaster III. The Air Force expects to reach Milestone C, or low-rate initial production, in August 2016, giving Boeing time to fix any remaining issues and continue testing, states the release. Once that is completed, USAF will “immediately” award a contract for the first two production lots, which will be followed with a Lot 3 contract in January 2017, states the release. “The first 18 aircraft will be equipped with refueling boom and centerline drogue refueling capabilities as well as all other contract required capability except WARPs. The WARP [wing-aerial refueling pod] systems required to complete full contractual RAA [required assets available] will be delivered separately in October 2018,” according to Boeing.