KC-46 Cost Down But LRIP Delayed

The cost of the KC-46 program is down about 5.4 percent over the last four years, but a production decision has been pushed from August to October, the Government Accountability Office said April 9. In an annually required tanker report to? Congress, the GAO said the KC-46 program cost has declined from $51.7 billion to $48.9 billion since February 2011, due partly to fewer engineering changes than expected and partly due to lower-than-expected military construction costs. However, due largely to the wiring harness issue that stalled flight testing, GAO recommended—and the Air Force concurred—that more flight testing should be completed before the low-rate initial production (LRIP) go-ahead, to ensure design maturity. On its “provisioned” 767-2C, which has the structure for aerial refueling but doesn’t have the refueling gear itself. Boeing planned to have 400 flight hours complete in 2014 (out of 2,400 development flight test hours planned), but the GAO said only 3.5 hours had been achieved. The company will focus on “key aerial refueling capabilities” testing prior to the LRIP decision. The GAO noted, however, that there’s further risk to completing needed testing by October “due to late parts deliveries, software defects, and flight test cycle assumptions.” If there are “costly problems” discovered late in development, under the fixed-price contract, Boeing will have to fix them “at no cost to the government,” states the report.