The Remote Vision System 2.0 (RVS 2.0) for the Boeing [BA] KC-46A Pegasus tanker will likely have a fielding delay of less than a year, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said on Sept. 20.
“As we were doing the critical design review [CDR] on RVS 2.0, there were some changes that were identified by the team,” Hunter said in response to a question at a media roundtable at the Air & Space Forces Association annual conference. “That’s why we do critical design review, to make sure that we’re gonna make everything work the way we need to. A necessary outgrowth, the fact that there was work identified that needed to be accomplished to make the design effective was that it’s gonna take a little longer than we had thought prior to the CDR. One of the tasks coming out of that was re-work the schedule and figure out how we get all of this nailed down. No answer yet exactly on what it’s gonna be, but we think it will be less than a year.”
“In terms of cost, I’m not expecting anything shocking, and it will not be at the department’s expense,” Hunter said of the needed revisions to RVS 2.0. “It will be at Boeing’s expense.”
In 2020, the Air Force said that its goal was to field RVS 2.0–with 4K color cameras, operator stations with larger screens, a laser ranger for refueling aircraft distance measurement and boom assistance augmented reality.–by 2023.
Hunter’s comments come a day after the head of Air Mobility Command (AMC) said that he has certified the KC-46A as “worldwide-deployable, combatant command-deployable, combat-deployable” after clearing the aircraft for its final Interim Capability Release (ICR) (Defense Daily, Sept. 19).
Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, the AMC commander, said that work on the updated RVS 2.0, which is expected to improve the system’s depth perception, will help address some of the current flight restrictions on the KC-46.
“There are some angles and certain weather phenomena that challenge the RVS. So when we know that’s going to occur we line up the angles differently. That would be an example of what the crews are dealing with. RVS 2.0 will fix that. I’m confident,” Minihan said.
“I’m 100 percent confident in [the KC-46’s] ability for people to fly, fix and support it,” he said. “I love it. The people that refuel off of it love it. The combatant commands that have been the recipients of the [Employment Concept Exercises] are big fans of it. And you know what, I’m happy that we’ve closed that ICR chapter out,” Minihan said. “There’s lots of more work to do. I’m going to focus on the integration of all the fixes now, because there’s plenty. I’m going to be hypersensitive to the timelines of everything that needs to come back and be addressed and eliminating, as much as I can, the operational impact of those fixes.”
Asked about the decision to clear the KC-46 for operational refueling missions while limitations on the aircraft remain to be addressed, Minihan said holding back the platform while it’s still capable of performing missions would be a “losing approach.”
“The concern would be that we’re saying those limitations are okay, and we’re not. The command’s efforts are going to, as I’ve stated, be focused now on the integration of those fixes so that we can get out of the business of [tactics, techniques and procedures] adjusting for the shortcomings and then really realize the full capability of the jet,” Minihan said. “My job is to win tomorrow. Nobody is going to care about my plans for the KC-46 or my fleet in 10 years if I lose tomorrow. I need it now. I am extremely straightforward with Boeing in my concerns about quality, timelines and costs. But, if I can put an incredibly capable tanker in the fight, then why wouldn’t I.”
Boeing in June said it delivered its 61st KC-46A to the U.S. Air Force, as the company prepared for CDR (Defense Daily, June 15).
The end of KC-46A initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) and a full-rate KC-46A production decision may not come until fiscal 2024 at the earliest because of Category I deficiencies with the aircraft’s RVS and the actuator for the refueling boom.
Some retired Air Force boom operators have said that they are skeptical of the remotely operated boom concept and have suggested ergonomic improvements for boom operators in aircraft, such as the KC-135 and KC-10, who must lie on their stomachs for long periods of time while guiding the booms.
In late August, Boeing was awarded $2.2 billion for delivery of 15 KC-46As under production lot 8 and a $927 million deal to build four of the tankers for Israel by the end of 2026 (Defense Daily, Aug. 31).