The beleaguered KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling tanker will be used only if necessary, as in not for day to day use, Air Force leaders told a Hill panel.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee during a March 3 hearing, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein were repeatedly asked about the aircraft’s problems and progress.
The KC-46’s chief problem concerns performance of its remote vision system, which enables crew members to see the plane’s refueling boom and the aircraft that is trying to refuel. Barrett told the panel that service leaders and executives with Boeing – the plane’s builder – are meeting constantly in an effort to resolve the issue. She said the service wants the problem resolved by the end of the month – which is a stretch.
Gen. Goldfein told lawmakers that the Air Force would not risk using the KC-46 in day to day operations, but that it would, as a calculated risk, use the aircraft in “high-end” combat operations as necessary.
The $32-billion KC-46 program calls for acquisition of 179 planes that would be ready to join the inventory by 2023 or 2024, according to Air Force Magazine. It would replace the aging KC-135 tankers, which have been in service since 1957.