WASHINGTON Jan 28 A new Boeing Co aerial
tanker that will refuel warplanes during flight is expected to
see operational testing slip by at least 6 to 12 months,
according to a U.S. Defense Department report due to be
officially released on Wednesday.
The $52 billion KC-46 tanker program, one of the
Pentagon's biggest arms programs, calls for Boeing to
deliver the first 18 of 179 new planes to the Air Force by 2017
to replace the current fleet of 50-year-old KC-135 tankers.
The new report by the Pentagon's chief weapons tester,
Michael Gilmore, said Boeing and the Air Force needed more time
to complete developmental testing and initial training before
operational testing could begin.
The Pentagon is due to release Gilmore's annual report on
major weapon programs Wednesday, but copies of the report began
circulating in Washington on Tuesday.
Gilmore's report said a detailed analysis of Boeing's
initial schedules for aerial refueling certification, technical
orders for aircraft and support equipment, and training pointed
to a delay in operational testing of up to a year.
The tanker program is one of the Pentagon's largest weapons
initiatives and has been closely scrutinized since its
decade-long contest with France's Airbus and an ethics
scandal resulted in two Boeing officials getting sentenced to
prison in 2004.
The report also urged the Air Force to plan testing against
realistic cybersecurity threats to identify potential
vulnerabilities with the new plane, and said the program had
already begun to address these concerns.
No immediate comment was available from Boeing officials.