Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said recently that the Boeing Co. is closing in on a fix for one of the biggest issues still vexing the KC-46 tanker. It’s the new tanker that was presented at Altus Air Force base during ceremonies last year featuring Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
That system — which has airmen refuel other aircraft using a series of cameras while seated at a console rather than laying down to operate the boom by direct sight like on the KC-135 — was one the Air Force said would still require work even when it finally started accepting deliveries of the delayed tanker early last year.
Boeing, a company with operations at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, is footing the bill for the needed upgrades to the remote vision system and the Air Force has been withholding $28 million in payments to the company for each tanker until the problem is fixed.
“It’s a very active dialogue,” Goldfein told Defense News. “We are working on getting a serious fix.”
He also told the publication that he met with new Boeing (NYSE: BA) CEO David Calhoun in January and described the focus on the tanker as “a different level of intensity from the leadership at Boeing on getting a serious fix for the KC-46.”
Calhoun in January officially replaced former CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who saw lingering issues with the tanker add to Boeing’s crisis list amid the high-profile grounding of 737 MAX narrow-body jet that ultimately resulted in his ouster.
Goldfein was on hand in Wichita when the first tankers arrived at McConnell Air Force Base in January 2019, more than two years later than Boeing had originally planned.
McConnell is the main operating base for the new tanker and will eventually be home to 36 of the aircraft. But crews are also being trained at Altus Air Force Base where the first of the planes arrived last year.
Boeing in late September 2019 was awarded $2.6 billion for construction of the next 15 tankers, part of the 179 KC-46 jets the company intends to eventually build for the Air Force.
Each of those include work done by Spirit AeroSystems Inc. in Wichita, which builds the forward fuselage and other components on the Boeing 767 that serves as the platform aircraft for the tanker.
Source: Wichita Business Journal