KC-46 cargo solution still ‘months’ away

WASHINGTON — The Air Force expects to have a safety issue with the cargo capability of its KC-46A Pegasus Tanker fixed within “months,” the service’s top acquisition official said Tuesday.

Will Roper added that he was “confident” the issue would get fixed and said the problem, which has led the Air Force to stop the tankers for 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 Writer’s 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 being restricted from carrying either cargo or people in the back of the aircraft. The decision was made after an incident occurred where the cargo locks on the bottom of the floor of the aircraft became unlocked during a recent flight, creating concerns that airmen could potentially be hurt or even 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 for where it is responsible for paying for any 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 its 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.

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