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By Debbie Gregory.

Despite the government’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to deliver the KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft, Boeing has forecast delivery of 18 units by year’s end.

“Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their scheduled reports,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee. “One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force.”

Boeing’s design was seen as relatively low risk as the tanker bid was based on a modified commercial 767 passenger jet. But delivery of the first KC-46 aircraft is expected to be more than a year late.

Boeing has 34 tankers in various phases of completion.

Before delivery can be made, Boeing must conduct flight tests to certify that:

  • The F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport jet are capable of receiving fuel from the tanker under all conditions;
  • The new tanker can be refueled by the older KC-135 tanker; and
  • The newly developed fix for the camera systems is operational.

The price tag for the development and production of 179 tankers is estimated to be $41 billion.

In the international marketplace, the delays gave an advantage to the KC-46’s competition, the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. But the USAF had awarded the development contract to Boeing which, at the time,  was declared “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years

The tanker features a new advanced refueling boom that extends 58 feet out from the rear of the aircraft, a rigid pipe with wings sprouting either side to make it maneuverable.

In contrast to the older KC-135 tankers currently in use by the Air Force today, the KC-46 the operator sits at a computer station behind the tanker’s cockpit instead of laying prone on their belly at the rear of the plane. The cameras provide the visuals rather than the operator having to look out a window at the receiving aircraft.

“When you are flying and fighting at night, the capabilities of the cameras are a game-changer,” said Sean Martin, the KC-46 chief boom operator. “On this airplane, it’s the same as daytime.”

By Debbie Gregory.

The contract for two refrigerator units that were destined for Air Force One has been canceled.

The $24 million contract would have provided two new “chiller” units that would have been installed in 2020. The current Air Force One planes have been in use since 1990, and are scheduled for replacement in 2024. Boeing reached a deal this year to build replacements for those two presidential airplanes for $3.9 billion.

That would have meant that the $24 million dollar chiller units were only going to be in use for four years.

The Air Force and White House Military Office decided to cancel the purchase until the new Boeing Air Force One planes are delivered, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson stressed that if the delivery of those planes is delayed, they will have to reconsider the possibility of replacement.

Technically speaking, any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president becomes Air Force One, but the moniker usually refers to the two identical planes that have been specifically modified to meet the security and logistical needs of the commander-in-chief and his flying staff.

The refrigerators on Air Force One are required to carry 3,000 meals in order to feed passengers and crew for four weeks in case of an emergency that prevents the plane from landing.

The Air Force has said the refrigerators currently on board Air Force One are based on old technology and were designed for short-term food storage, and are increasingly failing in hot and humid environments.

Rep. Joe Courtney, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power and projection forces, who had inquired about the refrigerator contract, praised the Air Force for terminating it, saying it “didn’t pass the smell test.”

By Debbie Gregory.

The first time a U.S. president flew in an airplane, it was a Boeing airplane. That was in January, 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew to Casablanca aboard a Boeing model 314 Clipper.

Boeing airplanes have transported U.S. presidents, from Roosevelt to Trump, around the world. The U.S. Air Force wants to continue the Boeing tradition with the 747-8, which will replace the two 747-200s that serve as the presidential Air Force One fleet. That is, if they can negotiate a deal with Boeing.

President Trump and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg are working together to try to re-kick-start the stalled multibillion-dollar deal for two new Air Force One airplanes which will fly future presidents for decades to come.

The two planes were initially built for a Russian airline that has since gone bankrupt. Air Force leaders and Boeing have been negotiating the terms of the modifications since last summer, but keep getting stuck at the type of contract that will be signed.

The Air Force wants to sign a fixed-price deal that would require Boeing to buy the planes at an agreed price. Boeing would then be responsible to absorb any cost overruns.

The project made headlines when before taking office, then president-elect Trump attacked Boeing for the $4 billion price tag, calling the costs “out of control” and demanded the order be canceled.  But Trump changed his tune last year after visiting a Boeing 787 Dreamliner factory in South Carolina. His parting words were: “God bless Boeing.”

As one of the largest defense contractors in the world, Boeing does a lot of business with the U.S. government.

The newer airplanes are larger than the current 747-200 airliners that were put into presidential service in the early 1990s.

The new planes will need to be modified with conference rooms, a presidential office, and secure military communications

JDAM

Boeing Co was awarded a $3.2 billion contract modification to a previously awarded contract for Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tailkits, according to the Pentagon.

The contract for the tailkits, which use GPS to boost accuracy for conventional bombs, was raised from an initial $1.75 billion contract awarded on Oct. 30, 2014, due to warfighter demand and to replenish depleted inventories, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The JDAM tailkit converts existing unguided free-fall bombs into accurate, adverse weather “smart” munitions. With the addition of a new tail section that contains an inertial navigational system and a global positioning system guidance control unit, JDAM improves the accuracy of unguided, general purpose bombs in any weather condition.

Once released from the aircraft, the JDAM autonomously navigates to the designated target coordinates. Target coordinates can be loaded into the aircraft before takeoff, manually altered by the aircrew before weapon release, or automatically entered through target designation with onboard aircraft sensors.

With a range of more than 15 nautical miles, JDAM can defeat high-value targets in any weather, day or night, with minimal risk to air crews. This system works fine even in bad weather, because the JDAM gets all its information from satellite signals, which aren’t blocked by cloud cover or obstacles. The bomb doesn’t have to see anything at all to find its way to the target.

New variants such as Laser JDAM and JDAM Extended Range allow warfighters to prosecute moving targets and deploy the weapon from greater distances, capabilities that come with little to no development risk since they are based on proven technology.

The JDAM played a major role in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and it will certainly play a significant role in any U.S. bombing campaigns in the near future. While the newest smart bombs aren’t 100 percent accurate, they are such an improvement over their predecessors.

More than 260,000 JDAM kits have been built at Boeing’s production facility in St. Charles, MO.

JDAM is a joint U.S. Air Force and Department of Navy program.

secret

By Debbie Gregory.

The Air Force has awarded the contract for the Long Range Strike Bomber, (LRS-B) to Northrop Grumman Corp.  Boeing, which along with partner Lockheed Martin submitted the losing bid, has filed a protest  with the Government Accountability Office (GOA) over the contract.

In a joint statement, Boeing and Lockheed Martin called the selection process for the LRS-B “fundamentally flawed.”

The contract is composed of two parts. The contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development, or EMD, phase. The second part of the contract is composed of options for the first 5 production lots, comprising 21 aircraft out of the total fleet of 100. They are fixed price options with incentives for cost.

Northrop Grumman won the award in part because of a projected cost per plane of $511 million in 2010 dollars, well below the Pentagon’s cost cap of $550 million in 2010 dollars. In fiscal 2016 dollars, those figures translate into $563 million and $606 million, respectively. The Boeing/Lockheed team bid $11 billion for EMD, but the Air Force calculated EMD at $21.4 billion, which shifts the risk from the contractor to the government.

“Although it is every competitor’s right to file a protest, the Air Force is confident that the source selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and taxpayer,” said US Air Force spokesman Maj. Robert Leese.

Boeing has little to lose and much to gain from a protest, but faces long odds of a successful outcome.

The LRS-B is designed to replace the Air Force’s aging fleets of bombers – ranging in age from 50+ years for the B-52 to 17+ years for the B-2 – with a long range, highly survivable bomber capable of penetrating and operating in tomorrow’s anti-access, area denial environment. The LRS-B provides the strategic agility to launch from the United States and strike any target, any time around the globe.

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