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USAF AMC chief proposed spiral development from Boeing in exchange for KC-46 acceptance

06 August 2018
The KC-46 refuels a C-17 in a previous trial. The head of the USAF's AMC said he would accept the flawed KC-46 as-is in exchange for decades of spiral development. The comment demonstrates how deeply concerned the USAF is with the problems dogging the new aerial refueling aircraft. Source: Boeing

Key Points

  • A top USAF general floated decades of spiral development work to Boeing in exchange for accepting a flawed KC-46
  • The comment shows how deeply concerned the service is with the aircraft’s problems

A key US Air Force (USAF) officer involved in the KC-46 Pegasus tanker programme told the service’s acquisition chief he would accept the flawed aircraft as-is, with certain problems unresolved, in exchange for 100 years of spiral development from prime contractor Boeing.

“Why not?” Air Mobility Command (AMC) Chief General Carlton Everhart told reporters on 2 August at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington. “That way I can continually improve it and it will always stay at the top of its game.”

The KC-46 refuels a C-17 in a previous trial. The head of the USAF's AMC said he would accept the flawed KC-46 as-is in exchange for decades of spiral development. The comment demonstrates how deeply concerned the USAF is with the problems dogging the new aerial refueling aircraft. (Boeing)The KC-46 refuels a C-17 in a previous trial. The head of the USAF's AMC said he would accept the flawed KC-46 as-is in exchange for decades of spiral development. The comment demonstrates how deeply concerned the USAF is with the problems dogging the new aerial refueling aircraft. (Boeing)

Gen Everhart said the USAF’s acquisition chief, William Roper, told him that he could not guarantee that request. The concept behind spiral, or iterative, development is improving a platform with rapid deployment of technology in periodic intervals, such as every six months or one year. Gen Everhart did not say if his offer was formally made to Boeing.

The general said the KC-46 issues that concern him regarding October delivery are military type certification, supplemental type certification, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification, getting data from the USAF, and then crunching that data. Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space, and Security (BDS), said in May that Boeing’s contract with the USAF was to deliver tankers with the centreline drogue system (CDS) and FAA and military certifications. Gen Everhart said work on the CDS still needed to be finished and that the US Navy (USN) would not test on it until the system was fixed.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in April that the original development contract required Boeing to deliver 18 operational aircraft, 9 wing aerial refuelling pods (WARPs), and 2 spare engines by August 2017.

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