New Tanker Schedule

Boeing made a progress report to top Air Force acquisition officials on the KC-46A tanker program last week, and there may be some schedule delays coming, said Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy in the Air Force’s acquisition shop, on Wednesday. The company reported it expects to have a new schedule prepared “in the February timeframe,” she told defense reporters in Washington, D.C. Although she believes the date at which the Air Force expects to have required assets available for an initial operating capability—August of 2017—”is achievable,” a recently discovered issue with wiring bundles that have to be re-strung through the airplane “has proven to be more challenging for them to overcome than I think they originally anticipated.” As a result, “We are continuing to see them be challenged by schedules,” said Pawlikowski. The first “provisioned” aircraft, a KC-46 without military and refueling gear, is running late, but she said she thinks it will get airborne “by the end of the calendar year.” There’s schedule margin in the program for the unexpected, but if it gets used up early, there’s little room left for unexpected setbacks at the back end, she said. “We have a pretty good idea of what the risks are in the schedule,” she said.