Monday, July 20, 2015

Part II: Develop, Determine and Deliver The KC-46 Phase II

With the recent write-off of $536 Million on KC-46 Tanker (767), Boeing has moved into phase II or what I call it the "Determination" Phase II through its flight validations. All ground tested systems are now loaded up after all its quirky non-conforming items have been ironed out. The ground development phase should be whole at this time. The main mission is refueling and Boeing just wrote the corporate check on the fuel management solutions found during phase 1. All other systems are ancillary to that main mission. The defensive systems, multi role capability and electronic warfare elements incorporated into the frame are generally tested, and applied through other aviation platforms.  The over-all risks of the KC-46 development aircraft are generally risk averse at this time. 

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Boeing Defense Space and Security 
The door remains wedged open a crack for any unforeseen risk going into phase II "Determinations Phase", or otherwise its avionic realm for validation. It has to fly integrating all its systems under operational stresses. The last minute tweaks will run into the future and beyond, since it’s the always improving model for the military.  Systems integration should have been run and completed, during the last eighteen months of this project. The radar, communications and computer management all should have worked together while functioning as a simulation in some Boeing building used for applying the KC-46 operational capability. The complete integrated management systems are now installed on the first fully loaded test frame, awaiting its initial flight testing, validating its over-all integration of its systems and avionics in flight. The KC-46 battle promise and bid proposition, must come to fruition, since Boeing was awarded the KC-46 Tanker bid now rest with Boeing's reputation on the "flight line". 

July 20, 2015 stock Analysis Quotation: From "Financial News" . co . uk

"Increased company investment in the program primarily is being driven by required rework on the airplane´s integrated fuel system that was identified as Boeing prepared for and conducted test and verification of that system during the second quarter. The added investment will support the engineering redesign, manufacturing retrofit and qualification and certification of the fuel system changes, and the conclusion of ground and flight testing on the program. 

Paraphrased by Winging IT Below : continues the quote...

The KC-46 fuel system is a complex, integrated system that provides fuel to the aircraft´s engines and advanced capabilities to refuel other aircraft in flight. It is also the final major system road block under scrutiny as it is also the primary objective for the project during the KC-46 development program. Non-fuel related system qualification testing is now more than 90 percent complete, and the overall ground and flight test program continues to progress melding together both environments in a test framework. Looking at initial airworthiness flight tests successfully completed in the second quarter, the KC-46 is almost ready to come out and play for Boeing.

Is Boeing nervous? A certain degree of uncertainty is hidden by thinkers at Boeing, and its subcontractors who think, "We’ve got this covered!" The worst case scenario is nothing works during the first fully implemented/loaded aircraft. The most optimal experience is everything really works fantastic. Somewhere between these two bookend outcomes, is the truth. Boeing believes the outcome will always need improvement to some degree. If in fact by proving a systems concept, it now enables the contractor or Boeing to go further from its early success with testing. They are now assured of the next progression step for the military. The "what we've learned" curve starts climbing rapidly. The military could become giddy over tests results and order additional add-ons based on flight tests. Or Boeing could bog down in the developmental swamp of despair, since it’s on Boeing head to make it right with the military. The latter is unlikely since the 767 is a marvelous flying machine for the last 30 years. Fueling was always the crazy card not yet played. After-all fueling is its main mission for multiple customers at the same time. Freight a second mission Boeing has in spades. Defensive systems is always a works-in-progress venture. By the time the KC-46 serves one year in the field, new updates to its capabilities will be on the way. The battle field doesn't stand still nor do its adversaries.

Getting it right in flight testing with a fully implemented KC-46 tanker is the big show. It means so much for the home team awardee and its military. Anything short of meets expectations is a failure for the procurement process and Boeing. Exceeds expectation is truly a time to celebrate both the contractor and process was absolutely correct.

In order for Boeing to exceed expectations it must accomplish all its talking points found in the bid process. It must deliver its vision for the KC-46. The range, the systems and its capability must be spot on. The fueling boom (s) must work right out of the wrapper, when installed and as advertised. The convertibility to medical or evacuation missions must be flawless. In all, the concept actually works well and the military can go forward with all its lessons learned.

If Boeing meets expectations, Boeing will need spending more money than what it intended for the project. It will fix everything not meeting expectation during tests to a final solution for meeting expectations. It will cost them.

However, a does not meet expectation conclusion will devastate the program and the bid process. Everybody has skin in the game. It meant, Boeing could not get one or more features working as required. If the fueling booms need extensive redesign or even additional adjustment beyond original expectations, it is a failure for the contractors, and will cost them significant money. If the complex fueling software codes are in a severe rewrite mode, it also becomes a program failure. If the KC-46 has an inadequate mission capability for its ancillary purposes, such as fright, troops or medical missions it becomes a does not meet expectations.  Boeing got beyond all these outcomes in phase I. Risk is now low for the program. The GAO wants a proof of concept before production starts for the delivery phase. It is a SOP compliance request and gets the GAO off the hook if production models are flawed. (See link at bottom of page for full GAO report)
Having any low rating, compromises all of the acquisition processes, contractor, and military, where it ends up loosing, and most of all this nation looses. 

Winging Surplus Item: It's Free therefore surplus if you click on the below link.

GAO Report KC-46 April, 2015