KC-10 Tankers, B-1 Bombers Can Slowly Be Retired, Lawmakers Say

Lawmakers are barring the U.S. Air Force from retiring any of its KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft while the service struggles to get the KC-46 Pegasus up and running.

In its markup of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act legislation, the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee said that the Air Force may not begin retiring any of its 379 Stratotankers until at least 2023. But it may start steady retirements of its KC-10 Extenders over the next three years, as long as it maintains a minimum requirement set by Congress.


Roper: KC-46 IOT&E and Full-Rate Production Could Be Accelerated

Just a day after the Air Force announced that a full-rate production decision on the KC-46 tanker will have to wait until late fiscal 2024 due to extended testing of the redesigned Remote Vision System for tanking operations, the service’s acquisition executive offered his hope that the timetable may be accelerated by laboratory testing of RVS elements.

The service and Boeing will work with the new and improved Remote Vision System in hardware-in-the-loop laboratories—one at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and one at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., facility, Air Force acquisition boss Will Roper said June 10. The new system—called RVS 2.0—will have 4K cameras, a LIDAR system for three-dimensional visualization and distance measuring; all to correct perception and distortion problems with the existing RVS.


As Criticism Mounts, Boeing Looks to Keep Pace With KC-46 Deliveries

Following years of delays and high-profile snafus, the Boeing Co. is predicting the KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tanker program will meet its key performance goals.

Boeing won the $4.9 billion fixed-price incentive contract in 2011 to build the tanker after successfully protesting a previous award to Airbus. The company has recently faced bouts of criticism from government officials and watchdogs over design issues, problems with foreign object debris and late deliveries.

The Air Force accepted its first delivery of the tanker in January, but has since halted deliveries of the aircraft twice due to the discovery of foreign object debris, or FOD.


McConnell KC-46 Crews Shaping the Future of Refueling

LE BOURGET, France?Despite extended delays and some continuing problems, the Air Force?s KC-46 operating base is now flying a steady stream of firsts and setting milestones.

Last week, the KC-46 made its international debut at the Paris Air Show. To mark the occasion, crews onboard the trans-Atlantic flight from McConnell AFB, Kan., to Ramstein AB, Germany, made filet mignon on board. On the way back this week, the KC-46 crews will mark the occasion by taking on space-available passengers for the first time in the Pegasus program.


The first KC-46 delivery is not happening this October as planned

WASHINGTON ? The first KC-46 won?t be delivered this month as had been agreed upon by the U.S. Air Force and manufacturer Boeing, the service?s top civilian said Wednesday.

In an Oct. 17 interview with Bloomberg News, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson acknowledged for the first time that the delivery milestone has slipped once again. Service officials and Boeing executives are meeting the same day to discuss how best to address a list of unresolved deficiencies ? one of the major barriers keeping the Air Force from accepting the new tankers.

Last month, Defense News first reported that two new category-1 deficiencies had been added to the KC-46?s list of problems, bringing the total to five. A category-1 deficiency is the most serious grade of technical issues that have no workaround in place.

KC-46 Tanker Gains FAA Approval

Boeing?s KC-46A Pegasus tanker?the aircraft intended to replace the veteran KC-135 Stratotanker in U.S. Air Force service?has been granted FAA approval, the company announced on September 4. With the KC-46A having completed the flying element of the certification requirements in July, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a supplemental type certificate (STC) for the Boeing 767-2C, verifying that it, and its refueling and mission avionics systems, meet FAA requirements.

Work on the STC began in 2015, including laboratory and ground tests before flight trials. Both the boom and drogue systems were assessed. Six aircraft were involved in the certification flight program. Preceding the STC approval, the baseline 767-2C was granted an FAA amended type certificate (ATC) in December 2017.

?Our Boeing/Air Force test team did an outstanding job successfully leading us through all the requirements, and we appreciate the FAA?s collaboration as well,? said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. ?This milestone is important in that it is one of the last major hurdles in advance of first delivery to the U.S. Air Force.?