WASHINGTON — The KC-46A Pegasus tanker program director is "not comfortable" saying the tanker's first flight will happen as planned in April.
The first engineering, manufacturing, development (EMD) configuration flew in late December, while first flight of a full-up KC-46A had been scheduled for April. That now appears to be slipping.
Richardson acknowledged that there are schedule pressures driving the tests, noting that the six-month margin that had been built into the tanker EMD phase has been used up.
"I take that very seriously," he said. "I'm working pretty darn hard to pull some schedule margin back in."
"As soon as we can get it up, we need to get it up," he said. "We need to do what's needed so it can fly safely, but … I'm not looking for the perfect airplane. I'm looking for a safe airplane so I can get it up and start collecting the air worthiness data."
A spokeswoman for Boeing, the prime contractor on the tanker program, said the company is "working hard every day to get ready for that first flight and have a good team in place putting forth the effort to keep it on track and moving forward... it will fly when it's ready."
It wasn't all bad news from Richardson, who said overall the program was "very healthy" and has benefitted from "incredible" requirements stability.
He also highlighted two potential foreign sales opportunities: a direct commercial sale to South Korea and a foreign military sale to Japan. Korea is expected to downselect its choice of tanker in May, while Richardson said he expects an RFP from Japan sometime in April.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.