Air Force accepts Boeing’s KC-46 tanker after a two-year delay and $3 billion in cost overruns


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has accepted the first delivery of Boeing‘s aerial refueling tanker despite outstanding issues with the aircraft, the service said Thursday.

After a two-year delay, which cost the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer more than $3 billion, the first four of an expected 179 KC-46 aerial tankers will be delivered to the Air Force by the end of the month.

And yet, design and software issues remain.

Boeing has agreed to foot the bill for software and hardware upgrades for the camera system used in refueling operations and the Air Force will finance the redesign of the tankers’ boom, which is used to deliver fuel to an aircraft.

The Air Force will also withhold 20 percent of its payment to Boeing until progress is made on aircraft deficiencies.

“We have identified, and Boeing has agreed to fix at its expense, deficiencies discovered in developmental testing of the remote vision system,” Capt. Hope Cronin, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in a statement.

A source familiar with the program explained that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was slated to approve the tanker on Friday, Dec. 21, until he resigned a day prior.

The Pentagon’s decision to accept the aircraft was made by Ellen Lord, undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, since the acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has recused himself from the defense company’s projects.

The formal delivery ceremony for the first tankers will be at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, at the end of the month.

Correction: Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was slated to approve the tanker on Friday, Dec. 21. An earlier version misstated the date.