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Government Accountability Office Warns KC-46 Pegasus Program

USAF Told to Let Systems Mature Before Going All-In On Expensive, Unrefined Systems

The US Air Force has been warned of re-treading mistaken ground in their troubled KC-46 Pegasus tanker program, being warned against accepting a redesign of its floundering Remote Vision System without taking appropriate precautions against waste, said the GAO. 

The plan as-is essentially places the USAF on the hook for increased financial responsibility as it commits to the new design of the marginally functional system before the technology involved is adequately developed. The accountability office recommends the force fully assess and test the technology involved, and keep an open mind towards waiting for more maturation and engineering to take place before rolling out a half-baked system across a large swathe of its tanker fleet. 


The Remote Vision System is another futuristic whiz-bang system that refines the boom refueling system with cameras, displays, and monitors with an eye towards more accurate, all-weather, day and night refueling capability. Operations in the dark or in poor visibility would, just like many other instrument flight operations, benefit greatly from the ability to see and assess refueling ports more easily. The system is, of course, in modern fashion, vital to refueling, as the boom operator's station has been eliminated in favor of a crew station in the main cabin. Previous tankers placed an airman face down with a window view of his refueling target, a luxury no longer available on the Pegasus. The result, should the system be built en masse and delivered to tanker wings around the world, would likely lead to only marginal mission readiness until the issues could be addressed and shortcomings resolved. Concurrent production and development often brings, as the GAO notes, the liability of increased cost over time. Outstanding RVS issues, as of last year, were slated to be resolved sometime in 2024 at the earliest, with sundry other items with the refueling boom and flight management system in the years leading up to it. 

"Without taking these steps prior to closing the preliminary design review, the program may accept a remote vision system design that contains immature technologies and greater risk of cost and schedule growth. The sooner the program completes these steps, even if after the design review, the sooner it can identify design issues and proactively take steps to mitigate any further cost growth and delays in delivering promised capability to the warfighter." 

"GAO is making three recommendations including that, prior to approving the contractor's redesign of the remote vision system, or soon thereafter, the Air Force assess technology readiness, develop a technology maturation plan, and test the prototype in an operational environment." The Air Force, the GAO notes, "did not concur with these recommendations." 



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