Issue Briefs

Why The Air Force’s Latest Flight Plan For Its KC-46 Tanker Looks Likely To Finally Deliver Success

Loren Thompson

April 9, 2020.

Earlier this month, the Air Force disclosed amendments to the contract it has with Boeing for developing its next-generation aerial refueler. The planes are badly needed to replace aged Cold War tankers, without which many combat aircraft in the joint fleet could not operate effectively in foreign wars. The KC-46 Pegasus, as the new tanker is called, is the most capable aerial refueler ever built. But the Air Force has been unhappy with the plane’s remote vision system that operators use to fit the fuel line into receiving planes during flight. Under the contract amendments, Boeing will implement major enhancements to the vision system, and the Air Force will release $880 million to the company that had been withheld on the 33 tankers already delivered. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.

Loren B. Thompson is a Senior Adviser at GPI, Chief Operating Officer of the non-profit Lexington Institute and Chief Executive Officer of Source Associates, a for-profit consultancy. Prior to holding his present positions, he was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs at Georgetown. He has also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Thompson holds doctoral and masters degrees in government from Georgetown University and a bachelor of science degree in political science from Northeastern University.