Boeing’s KC-46 tanker for the U.S. Air Force.
WASHINGTON – The nation’s highest ranking Air Force officer praised Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun for quickly working with the Department of Defense to repair the KC-46 refueling tanker, which the defense contractor He promised it would be the backbone of American air power.
“I am much more confident today in Boeing’s performance and behavior on the KC-46 than in all my time here, and I give the new CEO a lot of credit for being a man of his word.” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a teleconference hosted by Brookings.
Calhoun, who rose to the top spot at Boeing in January, promised the four-star general that he would rectify the problems with the new tanker program.
“Three days after new CEO Dave Calhoun took his place, I wrote him a letter, he came to see me. We had a very frank conversation and I asked him for a couple of things,” Goldfein said.
He said he said to Calhoun, “Listen, I don’t see the resources being placed against this program that need to be placed. I’m no longer interested in half measures when it comes to the remote visual system, and frankly I’m not seeing the talent of the company on this show that you should be watching. “
Last January, after a two-year delay, the Air Force received its first two Boeing refueling tankers. And while the Air Force plans to buy 179 tankers, the program has been plagued with a litany of problems, including foreign object debris and problems with the camera system used during the refueling process.
The delivery marked an important milestone for the program that exceeded the budget by more than $ 3 billion.
Boeing’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker delivers fuel to an aircraft.
Goldfein said that after their meeting with Calhoun, the Pentagon and Boeing were able to come up with an engineering design solution. The chief of the Air Force compared the situation with the first days of the C-17, the army’s great global transport aircraft.
“At first, it was a disaster, and we almost lost that show multiple times, but no one remembers it,” Goldfein said of the C-17 plane.
“Right now we look at the C-17, everyone flies it. It is amazing that it is probably one of the most important weapon systems we have ever deployed. It is the heartbeat of global mobility, but no one remembers those early days. KC-46 I’m convinced that it will be a weapons system that we are all proud of, “he said, adding that he has flown the new tank truck twice.
Goldfein’s comments come as the aircraft maker faces the economic toll of the coronavirus, the latest blow to Boeing since it stopped production of the 737 Max, which was worldwide for just over a year after two accidents. fatalities that killed 346 people.
In April, the Pentagon released $ 882 million in withheld payments to Boeing in an effort to ease the financial strain of the coronavirus outbreak on the defense contractor. The U.S. Air Force and Boeing negotiated the release of the payments, which were delayed due to pending failures with the KC-46 refueling tanker.
“When Covid-19 hit, obviously, things changed for the entire defense industrial base,” Will Roper, deputy secretary of the Air Force for procurement, technology and logistics, told Pentagon journalists in April by teleconference.
“Cash flow is everything right now, liquidity is everything, and we’ve created policies in the Department of the Air Force to get as much cash out of our hands and into the industry as possible … The KC-46 is no exception, “he added.