Wiring Issue Not Seen as a Problem for KC-46 Tanker; Boeing May Deliver First Batch Early
Despite an electrical wiring issue, the Air Force is confident that Boeing will meet its the KC-46 Pegasus tanker contract on time, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers said Sept. 16. The company may even deliver the first 18 aircraft five months early.
“We anticipate the roll out ceremony or the debut of the first KC-46 to be sometime during the first quarter of calendar year 2015,” Maj. Gen. John F. Thompson said at the Air Force Association’s annual conference at National Harbor, Maryland.
Shortly after January, Boeing notified the government it had found some issues during a Federal Aviation Administration required engineering process. The FAA process discovered anomalies in some of the wire modules, which in a civilian aircraft would be fine, but in military aircraft would not meet requirements, he said.
“Those anomalies were essentially for redundant aircraft systems where you want to have a redundancy in an electrical system,” Thompson said. In military aircraft, “Wires that represent redundancies cannot be put next to each other in the same bundle,” he added.
“The Boeing folks identified some anomalies so they went and got the wire audit where they went and reviewed 98,000 different wire segments.” There were redundancies in less than five percent of the wiring bundles. “In terms of translating bundles, as the spring and summer have progressed, the Boeing folks have been, in essence, redesigning those bundles,” Thompson said.
Without that FAA process, he added, “This wiring problem probably would not have been discovered until configuration audits much later in the program.”
“A lot of that wiring, in fact most of it, is in the forward lower lobe [of the aircraft],” he said. That is where rewiring had to be done, he added. In a commercial version of a 767 freighter, there is about 70 miles of wiring on the aircraft. On the KC-46 version, there is about 120 miles of wiring.
This is not a performance issue, he said. The Air Force considered this to be a minor production challenge, he added.
“Everything looks really good from a performance standpoint,” Thompson said, but the next six months are critical in order to meet the production schedule.
The contractual date for required assets available, when Boeing must deliver 18 operationally ready aircraft, is August 2017. The current integrated master schedule shows RAA in March 2017, Thompson said.
“So the Boeing folks, when they established their internal milestones, established essentially about five months worth of margin,” he added.
“As we’ve been producing aircraft, we had originally planned on flying the 767-2C, which is the provision freighter variant to the KC-46 in the summer time frame. That time frame now looks more like mid to late November,” Thompson said.
The program of record calls for 179 aircraft with production eventually ramping up to 15 tankers a year.
The focus is “stable funding and stable requirements,” Thompson said. “Funding stability on the program is paramount.”
The tanker, which is slated to ease pressure on their older refueling aircraft, some of which are 50 years old, will be equipped with cargo space and weapons capabilities. Though, its key feature is the 1,200 gallon per minute aerial refueling power.