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April, 16
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    Revamped KC-46 vision system slipping into 2026, nearly two years late

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    The rollout of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker’s new remote vision system will likely slip into 2026, placing it nearly two years behind schedule, according to the Air Force’s top acquisition official.

    Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces that schedule pressures on the vision system, known as RVS 2.0, are placing in doubt the most recent goal of releasing it to the fleet by October 2025. As a result, RVS 2.0 could end up being nearly two years late.

    Hunter indicated the FAA’s airworthiness certification process — the completion of which will officially close out the system’s design approval — is one of the factors again delaying RVS 2.0. Boeing and its primary subcontractor, Collins Aerospace, are the main companies working on RVS 2.0.

    “There is some schedule pressure there,” Hunter told lawmakers during a March 12 hearing on the service’s proposed fiscal 2025 budget. “Depending on the completion of the FAA airworthiness certification process, I cannot guarantee you that we would be in a position to field [RVS 2.0] in ‘25. It may be ‘26 – and that is actually likely, I think it will probably field in ‘26.”

    Boeing declined to comment and referred Defense News’ queries to the Air Force, which has not yet responded to follow-up questions.

    RVS 2.0 will replace the KC-46′s original, troubled Remote Vision System, which does not respond quickly enough to sun and shadows and sometimes produces a distorted image. The Air Force fears that a faulty vision system could lead boom operators to accidentally damage receiving aircraft with the refueling boom.

    It will use a series of sensors, screens and 4k ultrahigh-definition cameras to allow the KC-46′s boom operators a 3D, full-color picture as they guide refueling booms into receiving aircraft.

    RVS 2.0 was supposed to be released in March 2024. But in October 2022, the service confirmed that schedule had slipped 19 months, largely due to supply chain problems affecting the project’s subcontractors.

    Boeing said at the time that parts shortages had led to longer lead times for computing equipment and other technology needed for RVS 2.0. The FAA and Air Force’s airworthiness certification processes also were factors in that delay, Boeing and the Air Force said in 2022.

    Hunter also said the KC-46 is still not completely cleared to refuel A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, due to a longstanding issue with the stiffness of its refueling boom and the A-10′s thrust.

    It’s not impossible for the KC-46 to refuel an A-10, Hunter said, but “it’s not a particularly good idea to do it on a routine basis, and therefore, we don’t.”

    Hunter said the Air Force has enough KC-135 Stratotankers in its fleet to safely operate A-10s wherever it needs.

    Boeing is also working on a redesigned actuator for the KC-46′s boom that would allow safe refueling of the A-10.

    The Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal 2023 annual report that the new boom actuator’s flight testing could start later this year, with flight testing of RVS 2.0 expected to start in 2025.

    Hunter also told lawmakers he believes the improved video clarity of RVS 2.0 will open up new opportunities to add autonomous capabilities in the KC-46′s refueling operations. And the Air Force could introduce more autonomous capabilities in the KC-46′s cockpit to reduce the pressure on pilots, he said, who can become “task-saturated” during the “dicier” moments of the refueling process.

    The Air Force expects to have 102 KC-46s in its fleet by the end of this year, and 118 by the end of 2025. The service is now on contract with Boeing for 139 KC-46s, and plans to buy 179 in all.

    Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.



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