New Hampshire’s two senators are asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office to review the status of Boeing’s efforts to fix major deficiencies in KC-46A Pegasus refueling tankers and what the U.S. Transportation Command is doing to address delays in their critical missions.
Because of problems in the KC-46 tanker’s remote visual system, the plane cannot be used for refueling missions unless absolutely necessary.
On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., joined U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., to send a letter to the Comptroller General Gene Dodaro at the Government Accountabilty Office.
The Government Accountability Office is a nonpartisan, independent government agency. Members of Congress can request they look into particular issues and if problems with a government project arise during their investigation, Congress can push the administration to focus on addressing the problems and can draft legislation.
Hassan serves on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee with Lankford and requests from this committee to the Government Accountability Office take priority, according to a member of Hassan’s staff.
“The KC-46 is critical to the national security missions at Pease Air National Guard Base and the operations of the U.S. Air Force as a whole, and it is unacceptable that these aircraft may not be able to fly missions until 2023 due to critical deficiencies, including with the remote vision system and the refueling boom,” Hassan said in a statement.
Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington said on Thursday that they have seven tankers there, all of which are being used for training missions only.
Heilshorn said the refueling crews have not been transferred to another base.
According to the letter to Dodaro, the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker modernization program is currently assessed at a cost of about $43 billion and is one of the U.S. Air Force’s highest acquisition priorities.
In 2011, Boeing was contracted to develop, test and produce 179 tankers. The first 18 were expected to be delivered by August of 2017 but due to several critical deficiencies with the remote visual system and boom, that did not happen.
In January of 2019, the Air Force began to accept some of these aircraft with deficiencies on the promise that Boeing would fix them. The over 30 planes accepted so far are not expected to be used for missions until 2023, according to the letter.
Earlier this year, the Air Force released $882 million in payments to Boeing that were held back due to flaws in the tankers. They could have withheld up to $924 million, according to Reuters.