A KC-46 departs Boeing's plant headed for McConnell Air Force Base on Jan. 25. Photo courtesy of Boeing
April 30 (UPI) -- Boeing has been awarded a $5.7 billion post-production contract for combat capability for the U.S. Air Force's troubled K-46 Pegasus refueling tanker aircraft.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, announced Monday by the Department of Defense, includes non-recurring and recurring requirements centered on user-directed and Federal Aviation Administration-mandated KC-46 air vehicle needs.
The KC-46 fleet is planned to replace the Air Force's Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers.
The company's $49 billion KC-46 program has seen multi-year delays and expenditure overruns. And deliveries have been halted multiple times because of foreign materials found in the jets after arrival from the factory.
Work on the new contract will be performed at Boeing's plant in Seattle and is expected to be complete by April 28, 2029.
Fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $9.1 million have been obligated on the first delivery order at the time of award.
The military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft are built from from empty Boeing 767 jet airliners in Everett, Wash., then transferred to a facility at the south end of Paine Field called the Military Delivery Center. That's where the jet's military systems, including the refueling and communications equipment, are installed.
The first two KC-46s were flown from Boeing's facilities to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., in January, but deliveries were stopped within weeks.
The Air Force halted deliveries of the aircraft on Feb. 21 due to foreign object debris, including trash and industrial tools. Eight tools were found in aircraft under production at Boeing's facility, and two more in tankers delivered to the U.S. Air Force, according to an internal Boeing memo.
After inspections by the Air Force and the creation of an additional inspections plan, deliveries resumed about one week later.
In April, however, the Pentagon again halted accepting deliveries aircraft due to foreign object debris. The Air Force and Boeing has been working on an even more intense inspection process, including draining fuel tanks on all new aircraft so that they can be inspected for foreign object debris -- as with the rest of the planes -- Defense News reported.
Boeing plans to deliver 36 aircraft this year, said Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice president.