Boeing Likely To Miss Delivery Deadline For KC-46 Tanker

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker. Credit: Ken Fielding, photos.

Boeing’s contract to deliver a new tanker – the KC-46 Pegasus – is likely to become more expensive. For Boeing.

The Pentagon said this week that it has “low confidence in Boeing’s ability” to meet the deadline to deliver 18 of the new aircraft by the August 2017 deadline. A new deadline of March 2018 has been established, but there’s doubt Boeing can hit that mark.

The Seattle-based company has a fixed-cost contract that requires Boeing to cover any cost overruns. Boeing has projected the development phase to cost nearly $6 billion, which is $766 million over budget. Engineering and manufacturing costs that have been higher than expected has cost the company another $800 million.

Boeing is adapting its 767 commercial aircraft to become the KC-46 which is planned to replace the current KC-135 tankers that are made by Boeing.

A test flight that was conducted about three weeks ago was cut short for unknown reasons with the aircraft returning to Boeing Field a few minutes after takeoff. It’s unclear what the problem was, but no emergency was declared.

The Air Force has sought a replacement for the KC-135 for over a decade. The contract haggling has been unseemly at best and the first round of negotiating led a former Pentagon procurement executive being jailed over corruption charges.

The KC-46 is designed to be more than a tanker. It’s planned to carry 10 percent more fuel than the KC-135 and will also have the capacity for 65,000 pounds of cargo. It can be configured to carry 114 passengers and can also serve as a medical evacuation aircraft.

For its main purpose, it has both a probe and drogue and a boom and receptacle to conduct multiple refueling operations.