- Boeing missed its own goal for delivery of the first operational KC-46 tanker, and the firm is now obligated to hand 18 of them over to the Air Force by October.
- But several important flaws remain in the aircraft, and the firm and the government are working to resolve them.
- The KC-46’s years-long development has been stymied by problems.
The first operational KC-46A Pegasus — the tanker being designed by Boeing to replace the aging KC-135 — took its maiden flight on December 5.
That flight came after numerous delays and cost overruns that have stymied the tanker’s development over the past several years. Even though it got off the ground in December, Boeing admitted at the time that it would miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first operational KC-46 by the end of 2017.
Now the Air Force expects to receive the first operational KC-46 by spring 2018, and Boeing is obligated to deliver 18 of the new tankers by October. But major defects remain unresolved, according to Aviation Week.
The most worrying deficiency is the tendency of the tanker’s boom — where the fuel flows — to scrape the surface of the aircraft receiving fuel.
The problem could endanger the aircrews involved and risks compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded.
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