ANALYSIS: More problems for Pegasus

THE USAF’s troubled KC-46A tanker has run into more difficulties, meaning it’s unlikely to make a first operational deployment for up to another four years.

Boeing KC-46A Pegasus [Joe G Walker]
Among the latest KC-46As to come off the production line, 17-46026 (c/n 34127, line number 1132) was seen at Seattle's Boeing Field, Washington, on September 12. Joe G Walker

There are currently four Category One deficiencies affecting the aircraft – classified as an identified risk that jeopardises lives or critical assets. Of particular concern are problems relating to the remote vision system used to guide the refuelling boom. The current display offers limited acuity, reducing the boom operator’s vision to 20/50 equivalent.

Another Category One deficiency emerged in early September when locks that keep cargo in place appeared to come unlocked during multiple operational test and evaluation flights. As a result, Air Mobility Command (AMC) prohibited the KC-46 from transporting cargo and personnel. Boeing has offered a two-step approach to address the problem, with an interim step of using tie-down straps to secure cargo before working on a permanent solution.

Boeing is also working on a design change to the refuelling boom actuator to make it more sensitive to smaller receiver aircraft, another Category One issue.

Earlier this year, the Pegasus was affected by issues with foreign object debris in the aircraft, but the latest delivery – the 19th – was unaffected. Eighteen aircraft have now been delivered to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas; Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire; and Altus AFB, Oklahoma. The latest two deliveries (the 18th and 19th) arrived at McConnell AFB on August 29. To cope with delays, AMC is also considering slowing down retirements of the KC-135.