Defense

March 30, 2012

KC-46 program may experience delays

Only one year into its development, the Air Force’s KC-46 program may experience delays and technical challenges as they try to incorporate three advanced military technologies into the commercial Boeing 767 airliner, which is the basis for the new KC-46 refueling air tanker.

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, recently stated in a congressional report, “There is broad agreement that the KC-46 schedule risk is a concern.”

“While designing a new tanker using a modified commercial platform is not as technically challenging as a more revolutionary weapon system, the program still faces some technical risks, including technologies that have not yet been demonstrated during flight,” said GAO officials.

The technologies identified by the GAO include a new three-dimensional display for crewmembers that operate the aircraft’s refueling boom and other software. It also raised concerns about the plane’s weight, which is already near its limit, and instability of the hose used on new refueling pods.

The Air Force and Boeing have assessed the overall schedule risk as moderate, citing concerns about risks to the development, the test schedule for the aircraft due to a tight flight testing schedule, work on the commercial Boeing line to prepare the aircraft for military modifications, the need for two Federal Aviation Administration certifications, and software challenges.

Further, the Department of Defense’s chief testing official finds the testing schedule, “not executable as currently planned.”

In the GAO’s assessment, significant concurrency, or overlap, among development and production activities add risk to the program.

Not to mention, Boeing’s recent decision to close its Wichita, Kansas, facility where it planned to militarize the planes add further complications.

The KC-46 program has established its acquisition strategy for development and production, including total cost, procurement quantities, and key milestone dates.

The Air Force initiated the $51.7 billion KC-46 program to begin replacing the current fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. Boeing plans to produce 18 tankers by 2017 and 179 aircraft through 2027. Other follow-on procurements are anticipated to replace all of the current KC-135 fleet.

The program is using a $4.4 billion fixed-price incentive development contract, which also provides Boeing with incentives to control costs and limits the government’s liability to cover 60 percent of overruns up to a $4.9 billion ceiling. Boeing would cover any costs above that ceiling, unless the government changes its requirements for the tanker and renegotiates its contract.

“Even with these safeguards, it is important to note that one year into development, Air Force and contractor development cost estimates exceed the development contract amount and significant schedule risks have been identified,” the GAO wrote in an annual report on the program required by Congress.

At present, estimated development costs are $900 million higher than the initial February 2011 contract award amount and $400 million over the contract ceiling.

“Given that the KC-46 is one of only a few major programs in recent years to use a fixed-price incentive contract and the importance of tanker replacement to national security, rigorous monitoring of the program’s progress will be essential,” said GAO officials.

The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012 requires the GAO to annually review the KC-46 program through 2017.

The DOD waived the requirement for a preliminary design review before the program began system development and demonstration, but this design review is planned for March 2012.

“Although the program’s three critical technologies have not yet achieved the level of maturity indicated in best practices, they have reached a level of maturity consistent with DOD policy,” said GAO officials.

Only about 60 percent of the flight-testing will be completed when the Air Force plans to start low-rate production of the new tankers in August 2015.

According to the Air Force, the initial flight of the KC-46A aircraft is scheduled for late calendar year 2014.

The GAO recommends that DOD leadership monitor the progress and outcomes of this contract to provide lessons learned for future acquisition programs, and that the program fully implements metrics to track achievement of key performance parameters. The DOD fully agreed with these recommendations.

All involved agree that aerial refueling is essential to global U.S. military operations.

The KC-135 Stratotanker, referred to as the “backbone of the nation’s tanker forces,” is more than 50 years old on average, with age-related problems and increasing support costs, these factors could ground the fleet.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Army photograph by SFC Walter E. van Ochten

U.S., Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria train together at Rapid Trident 2015

Army photograph by SFC Walter E. van Ochten U.S. soldiers, of the 3rd Platoon, 615th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, react as they conduct reacting to contact training as part of their situational trai...
 
 
Army photograph by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt

Estonian, US forces receive new jump wings

Army photograph by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt Pvt. Kalmer Simohov, of Parnu, a volunteer with the Estonian Defense League, receives his U.S. Army Airborne wings following the joint airborne operations exercise at a drop zone in Nurm...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Thomas Spangler

Red Flag offers B-52 crews training that ‘can’t be beat’

Air Force photograph by A1 Class Rachel Loftis A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 69th Bomb Squadon, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., taxis for take off during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 15. The B-52 is a ...
 

 
navy-decommission3

Final West Coast frigate, USS Gary, decommissioned

Navy photograph by POCS Donnie W. Ryanl The guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) arrives at Naval Base San Diego after completing its final deployment before decomissioning. During the seven-month deployment Gary operated i...
 
 
Air Force photographby A1C Mikaley Towle

‘Thunder’ rolls at Fort Irwin

Air Force photographby A1C Mikaley Towle An Airman assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., observes as an A-10 Thunderbolt II circle before landing in support of Green Flag West 15-08.5 o...
 
 
DT2

‘Blue’ forces power through Red Flag 15-3

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika An F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, flies during a Red Flag 15-3 sortie at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 17. Red Fla...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>