Supply chain woes delay KC-46 refueling vision system upgrade to 2025

Christian Turner

WASHINGTON — The release of a redesigned refueling vision system for Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus will be delayed 19 months amid supply chain issues, the U.S. Air Force said.

In a statement provided to Defense News Friday, the Air Force said the remote vision system upgrade, RVS 2.0, will be released to the fleet in October 2025. It had been expected to be released March 2024.

Andrew Hunter, the Air Force’s acquisition chief, and Boeing said in separate statements that ongoing supply chain issues affecting subcontractors on the project were largely responsible for the more than year-and-a-half delay.

“Our defense industrial base continues to face supply chain issues and we’re seeing effects in the acquisition schedules of technically complex systems, such as the KC-46 Remote [Vision] System 2.0,” Hunter said in the statement. “We’ll continue to examine possible opportunities to accelerate the schedule to bring this increased operational capability to the tanker fleet.”

“KC-46s will continue to support worldwide deployments to meet the daily joint force air refueling demands,” he added.

A Boeing spokesperson said parts shortages worldwide have hurt the availability of some hardware, and resulted in longer lead times for the computing equipment and other technology needed to build RVS 2.0.

“We are committed to working with our suppliers and U.S. Air Force partners through the historical challenges that our industry has faced to deliver the unmatched capability of RVS 2.0 to the U.S. Air Force and allies,” Boeing said.

Bloomberg and Aviation Week first reported the delay.

RVS 2.0 is intended to replace the troubled, original Remote Vision System that boom operators on the KC-46 use to guide the boom into the aircraft being refueled.

The original vision system has a network of cameras and sensors to feed boom operators a picture of the refueling process, but under certain lighting conditions, the imagery can be distorted or difficult to see.

The Air Force has said the upgraded vision system will include several significant improvements over the original, including a full color display in 4K resolution. Other upgrades highlighted by the Air Force include improved visual and infrared cameras as well as redundant visual cameras, a redesigned aerial refueling operator station, redesigned image processors, and upgraded panoramic sensors.

Boeing said the long-wave infrared cameras planned for RVS 2.0 will provide better visibility at night, and the system will have three pairs of panoramic visual cameras for daytime operations.

Boeing and the Air Force also said that the FAA and Air Force’s airworthiness certification processes also played a part in the delay.

“The re-baselined schedule for RVS 2.0 certification is reflective of estimated timelines for the complete and thorough regulatory review and certification from both regulators, which are engaged throughout the laboratory and flight test processes,” Boeing said.

The Air Force said the design agreed upon in April has not changed, and the service will incur no direct cost due to the delay.

There are at least 62 KC-46s in the Air Mobility Command fleet.