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KC-46 Tanker Aircraft: Key Aerial Refueling Capabilities Should Be Demonstrated Prior to the Production Decision
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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Aerial refueling when aircraft refuel while airborne allows the U.S. military to fly farther, stay airborne longer, and transport more weapons, equipment, and supplies. Yet the mainstay of the U.S. tanker forces the KC-135 Stratotanker is over 50 years old. It is increasingly costly to support and its age-related problems could potentially ground the fleet. As a result, the Air Force initiated the 49 billion KC-46 program to replace the aerial refueling fleet. The program plans to produce 18 tankers by 2017 and 179 aircraft in total. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 included provisions for GAO to annually review the KC-46 program through 2017. This report addresses progress made in 2014 towards 1 achieving cost and performance goals, 2 meeting schedule targets, and 3 gathering manufacturing knowledge prior to the low-rate production decision. GAO analyzed key program documents and discussed development and production plans and results with officials from the KC-46 program office, other defense offices, and the prime contractor.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE