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US Air Force, Boeing reach agreement on remote vision system fix for KC-46

KC-46 Pegasus
A KC-46 Pegasus sits on the flightline at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar on Nov. 22, 2019. Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force and Boeing have reached an agreement on the rectification of the remote vision system on the troubled KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueler.

Both the air force and Boeing announced on April 2 that another system, dubbed Remote Vision System 2.0 would now be fitted onto the aircraft.

The air force noted that Boeing would have to pay for all the work on the modifications.

The initial RVS experienced technical issues during certain lighting conditions, disabling operators from safely conducting aerial refueling maneuvers. According to the air force, RVS 2.0 will include 4K color cameras with proper viewing geometry, operator stations with larger screens, a laser ranger for refueling aircraft distance measurement and boom assistance augmented reality.

With the help of scientists and engineers from both enterprises, the air force will lead design reviews and approve specifications to drive the partnership toward initial fielding in 2023.

Boeing noted that the agreement announced on April 2 takes advantage of new remote vision systems technologies “that are orders of magnitude better than what was available when the program started.”

“Not only will these advancements benefit the KC-46 by preparing it for future capabilities like autonomous refueling, they will also benefit other programs for years to come,” the company said in a statement.

The two sides reached another memorandum of agreement on the same day, under which the air force will release previously withheld contract payments to help ensure successful performance under the program. The funds are being released due to possible impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

This agreement would provide Boeing $882 million of withheld payments for previous non-compliance in 33 KC-46 deliveries.

This withhold release is in line with Department of the Air Force and Department of Defense policies to maximize cash flow, where prudent, to combat coronavirus impacts on the industry base. Within 120 days, the Air Force and Boeing will conduct an expedited process to determine final specification compliance or non-compliance.

Boeing delivered the first Pegasus aircraft to the air force in 2019, and has so far delivered 33 units to the service. The air force intends to buy a total of 179 aircraft.

The aircraft will also be acquired by the United Arab Emirates, while the US state department approved a possible sale of up to eight KC-46 aerial refuelers to Israel for an estimated $2.4 billion.