Given ongoing delays in getting the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker aircraft to be used in operational missions, several senators last week asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to provide regular progress reports on fixes that prime contractor Boeing [BA] is making on the program.
In a May 21 letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the bipartisan trio of senators said they are “concerned about the progress Boeing is making on fixing the critical deficiencies and the effect program delays are having on aerial refueling operations.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.), who are on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management.
Even though the Air Force began accepting KC-46s in January 2019 and have an inventory of 30 aircraft to date, the senators point out that “U.S. Transportation Command has decided not to use the aircraft in operation until the critical deficiencies are fixed, which is not expected to occur until 2023.” In the interim, they say, the Air Force will relay on a mix of KC-10 and KC-135 aircraft for the refueling missions, “some of which are over 60 years old.”
The senators ask the assessments to focus on the status of Boeing’s fixes, what U.S. Transportation Command is doing to mitigate the impact of the delays on its operations, what considerations Boeing is providing the Air Force due to the delays, and whatever else the GAO believes may be useful to the subcommittee.
The critical deficiencies in question include a Remote Vision System (RVS) and the boom. Earlier this spring, the Air Force and Boeing announced they have agreed on a path forward to fix the RVS with flight testing set to begin this summer and fielding to begin in the second half of 2023 (Defense Daily, April 2.)