The Air Force expects to receive a solution to its biggest Category-1 deficiency on the KC-46A Pegasus tanker by 2023, one year behind previous estimates, the service’s senior military official told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) March 3.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told committee members that the KC-46’s Remote Vision System (RVS) has seen enormous progress over the past few weeks and he expects the service and prime contractor Boeing [BA] to reach an agreement on the fix in the near future, but the solution is not expected to be available for another three to four years.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett added that she expects Boeing and the service to complete final negotiations on the RVS solution by the end of this month. Rockwell Collins [UTX] is the contractor working on RVS.
The Air Force has reported issues with the system where the boom operator has trouble focusing the system when the boom is about 10 feet from the receiving aircraft due to a technical issue. Goldfein reiterated this issue, saying it could lead to a “high potential” of the boom scraping against the receiving aircraft’s body.
The KC-46 has several other Category-1 deficiencies remaining on the program, but none as critical as the RVS solution. The Air Force is waiting on that fix before declaring the aircraft to be operational, but Goldfein said that should the service require additional tankers for a contingency operation, it would deploy every KC-46 in the fleet.
“I would accept that [issue] for a highly trained crew in a highly contingent operation, but not in day to day operations,” the chief of staff said, noting that he has experienced refueling a C-17 transport aircraft from a KC-46.
As of Feb. 27, Boeing has delivered 31 KC-46 aircraft to the fleet since January 2019. Fielded aircraft will require a retrofit for the RVS solution once it is identified.
Goldfein told lawmakers that Boeing CEO David Calhoun had committed to him that the KC-46 was his top military priority. “I have seen a change in the behavior of that company since he took over. That’s why we’re more confident sitting here today that we have a serious fix on the table,” he said.
Last week, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper told the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee that he had never seen a program “make this much progress this fast” than the KC-46 program has made on the RVS issue over the past three weeks (Defense Daily, Feb. 27).