Air Force Says Boeing Tanker Program Faces Further Delays

SEATTLE (The Seattle Times/TNS) -

The Air Force said Friday that Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program, already late and over budget, faces a further serious delay of six months to the initial tanker deliveries — and an additional nine months beyond that to achieve fully operational tankers.

Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, executive officer for the Air Force’s tanker program, said that “technical challenges with boom design, and issues with certification of the centerline drogue system and wing air refueling pods have driven delays to low rate production approval and initial aircraft deliveries.”

The news delivers a final blow to Boeing’s target of delivering the first 18 tankers to the Air force by August next year.

The Air Force said in a statement that after completing with Boeing a comprehensive risk assessment review of all remaining work, it now anticipates receiving the 18th tanker in January 2018.

Those first tankers, however, will not be fully operational. They will have the capability to dispense fuel through the boom that extends from the fuselage and the centerline drogue system, but not through aerial refueling pods on the wings.

The Air Force said Boeing anticipates delivering the wing aerial refueling pod capability by October 2018.

The wing pods are used to refuel different aircraft than those refueled by the boom.

Last month, Boeing took a $243 million pre-tax write-off on the tanker program due to cost overruns from incorporating and certifying engineering changes necessary as a result of issues that have surfaced during flight tests.

Earlier delays in the tanker program had resulted in previous write-offs in 2014 and 2015 totaling $1.3 billion.

Just a month ago, on an earnings call discussing the latest tanker write-off, Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg insisted Boeing was sticking to its original schedule commitment.