DAYTON, Ohio The Air Force has initiated its first engineering change proposal for the KC-46A Pegasus program as it plans to award a contract to fix the aerial refueling boom on the new aircraft this summer, the program executive officer for the tanker directorate said June 19.

The service approved the KC-46 for deliveries last December with several Category-1 deficiencies still in place, to include the boom and issues related to the Remote Visual System (RVS) (Defense Daily, Jan. 25).

A KC-46A tanker takes off from Boeing Field outside Seattle en route to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Jan. 31, 2019. Photo: Boeing

The boom design, as requested by the Air Force, has issues connecting to the lightweight A-10 attack aircraft, and the service is footing the bill to improve it.

Now, program officials have a “much better understand of the loads we need” to be able to handle on the boom, said Brig. Gen. John Newberry – who took over as the PEO for the Tanker Directorate at the Air Force Materiel Command’s Lifecycle Management Center in May – during the service’s Lifecycle Industry Days conference here Wednesday.

KC-46 prime contractor Boeing [BA] provided an estimate for how much it would cost to fix the boom, and the Air Force plans to sign an undefinitized contract action “in very short order” and begin work by the end of the summer, Newberry said. He declined to elaborate on the cost estimates Boeing provided, but said the Air Force still expects to incorporate the fix on both previously delivered aircraft and new platforms within three or four years.

Work continues to tweak the Collins [UTX]-built remote visual system, which Boeing included in its proposal as a solution to meet the Air Force’s requirements for a system that provided proper visual queues to the operator, Newberry said. He noted that while every modern tanker for the past few decades has used an RVS to fill that requirement, the one on the KC-46 did not meet the Air Force’s needs and Boeing is paying to improve it.

The tanker directorate worked with Boeing and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to determine the proper performance attributes for the system before first delivery approval, he noted. “Now, we are analyzing design and seeing if it meets those attributes,” he added. Analysis on the overall cost and timeline changes related to the RVS are also underway, he added.

The Air Force and Boeing are also working with Cobham on achieving Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification and flight tests for the wing air refueling pods, or WARPs, Newberry said. He noted that Boeing initially deferred the WARP certification to focus initially on reaching FAA certification for the centerline drogue, as that was “absolutely essential” for first aircraft deliveries.

Now that aircraft are being delivered, Boeing shifted priority to the WARPs and are making “good progress,” with the intent of certifying the pods by early 2020, he said.

Boeing has delivered 11 KC-46 aircraft to the Air Force to date, Newberry said Wednesday.