WASHINGTON, the USA (BulgarianMilitary.com) – The first delivery of KC-46 tanker to the U.S. Air Force was stalled by the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis’ sudden departure from the Pentagon. The fact that Boeing won’t deliver the first KC-46 on 31st December 2018, due to Mattis’ resignation, was reported on Monday by Defense News, citing a source close to the program, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
On 20th December, Reuters announced the U.S. Air Force’s intention to accept the first KC-46 by the end of last year after Mattis signs off on the delivery. However, later the same day, the Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced resignation, saying that he will step down from that post by the end of February 2019. Only three days later, President Donald Trump tweeted that Mattis would wrap up his work as secretary of defence by the end of 2018, pointing out that Patrick Shanahan, the current deputy at the Pentagon, would step up at the start of the New Year.
According to the Defense News’ source, due to the rapid changes that will occurre in leadership at the Pentagon, a decision on KC-46 was pushed out. The fact that Patrick Shanahan, who was named as defence secretary by the end of 31st December, is a former Boeing executive, complicated the situation further, because he must recuse himself from all decisions that involve the company.
Kelly Kaplan, a Boeing’s spokeswoman commented: “KC-46 remains a top priority and we look forward to delivering tanker aircraft in partnership with the Air Force.”
The new delay is a serious blow for the company that had missed a string of delivery dates, since August 2017. Along with the fixes under the program, Boeing recorded $176 million in additional charges on the KC-46 tanker in the third quarter alone. This brought to the company the total pre-tax cost of the program to more than $3 billion, as it is responsible for all costs that exceed the amount of the $ 4.9 billion fixed price contract initially awarded in 2011.
In October, Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg commented that the company’s steady progress toward KC-46’s final certification continues, as well as “the steps required to deliver the first tanker aircraft this quarter.”
Another source stated that, despite the delay, Boeing officials are hopeful that the Air Force will be able to move forward with delivery after a set of meetings in early 2019.
Given the fact that Shanahan is barred from the process, it is still unclear who will finalize the KC-46 delivery, though it may be authorized by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson or to Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
Under the Air Force’s program of record, the service plans to acquire 179 KC-46 tankers, with Kansas-based McConnell Air Force Base planned to become the first installation that will receive them. The training for pilots and boom operators has already begun.
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Sources: Defense News, Reuters