The KC-46 has officially entered initial operational test and evaluation, as prime contractor Boeing and the Air Force work to address the tanker's remaining critical deficiencies.
The service said in a statement today the program executive officer for tankers officially certified the aircraft’s transition into IOT&E on Tuesday.
"The Air Force continues to test the new weapon system while Boeing corrects identified deficiencies in parallel as the most expeditious means of achieving full operational capability," the service said. "Air Force leadership remains concerned with Boeing's slow progress resolving issues limiting the KC-46's operational capability and continues to work with Boeing to ensure the KC-46 meets all essential mission requirements."
The Air Force last month banned the KC-46 from carrying any cargo or passengers due to a problem with its cargo lock system identified during pre-IOT&E. Boeing has been testing a hardware fix and the Air Force is expected to evaluate the design for suitability this month. Following that review, the service will make a plan to retrofit the fix across the fleet.
Those flight restrictions remain in place, Air Mobility Command confirmed to Inside Defense today.
The service has designated the cargo lock issue as a category 1 deficiency. Other remaining high-level deficiencies include two involving the KC-46 boom and one related to the tanker's remote vision system.