The Air Force appears to be targeting a mid-November delivery date for the long-awaited KC-46 air refueling tanker, although several steps are still required before manufacturer Boeing [BA] can hand over the keys.

The service Oct .22 released two solicitations via FedBizOpps seeking contractors to provide shuttle and bus services and latrine and trash facilities, respectively, for a tentative KC-46 welcoming ceremony Nov. 16 at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Both queries include a date of Nov. 16, though they note that it is subject to change.

A Boeing KC-46A tanker refuels an F-16. (Photo courtesy of Boeing)
A Boeing KC-46A tanker refuels an F-16. (Photo courtesy of Boeing)

Boeing announced in June that Air Mobility Command’s 22nd Air Refueling Wing stationed at McConnell would receive the first KC-46 aircraft.  

Air Force chief of media operations Ann Stefanek told Defense Daily Monday afternoon that the Nov. 16 date was “a date to shoot for” as the program manager’s office begins to plan for an upcoming welcoming ceremony, but that the date was certainly not set in stone. Boeing is currently planning for deliveries to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018, said Kelly Kaplan, a company spokeswoman.

Despite being included in the two solicitations, the stated date appears to be optimistic considering the amount of work and decisions remain before the KC-46 can arrive on base. The aircraft’s delivery has long been beset by delays, and in September it was found to possess two new category-1 deficiencies, revolving around the refueling boom system, as first reported by Defense News. Boeing is also continuing to address several additional Category-1 deficiencies that were previously identified. The Air Force did not comment on the status of those determinations on Monday.  

The service must also submit a military type certification for the aircraft before first delivery, which has yet to occur, according to Boeing. The company received the final Federal Aviation Administration certification required before delivery on Sept. 5 (Defense Daily, Sept. 6).

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed in an Oct. 18 interview with Bloomberg News that the KC-46 would miss its targeted October delivery date. The service was originally targeting initial deliveries to begin Oct. 27, new Air Mobility Command Commander Gen. Maryanne Miller told reporters at a recent industry conference (Defense Daily, Sept.19).