KC-46 cargo solution still ‘months’ away
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force expects to resolve a safety issue with the cargo capability of its KC-46A Pegasus tanker within “months,” the service’s top acquisition official said Tuesday.
Will Roper said he is “confident” the issue would get fixed and that the problem,— which has led the Air Force to stop the tankers from flying with cargo in their holds — was not his top concern for the Boeing-made plane.
“The issue with the locks was identified. We’re working options currently with Boeing and their supplier,” Roper said at a breakfast hosted by the Defense Writers Group. “We’re looking to our operators to tell us which one of the solutions that have been identified is the one that they prefer.”
In September, Defense News first reported that the KC-46 was restricted from carrying either cargo or people in the back of the aircraft. The restriction was set after a recent flight where cargo locks on the bottom of the aircraft’s floor became unlocked, creating concerns that airmen could be hurt or killed by heavy equipment that suddenly bursts free during a flight.
The cargo issue represents the fourth category 1 deficiency for the tanker, and the issues are becoming increasingly expensive for Boeing: The company is locked into a fixed-price contract, which means it is responsible for paying for a expenses beyond the initial $4.9 billion award for development of the aircraft. So far, the company has paid more than $3.5 billion of its own money to fund corrections to ongoing technical issues. The other three issues are:
Roper said the cargo issue “goes into the kind of normal deficiency space” and noted that it’s the type of issue that is discovered by the normal testing process. The more long-term issues, such as the remote visual system, are “the areas I keep the most focus on,” he said.