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September 21, 2020 | International, Aerospace, C4ISR

Why Did Boeing Opt To Fully Redesign The KC-46 Remote Vision System?

Lee Hudson

Why did Boeing opt to fully redesign the vision system on the KC-46 instead of using the Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10's reliable and proven technology?

Aviation Week Pentagon Editor Lee Hudson answers:

The Netherlands' Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Physics and Electronics Laboratory designed the Tanker Remote Vision System in 2006 for the McDonnell Douglas KDC-10. It is used on two tankers that serve in both tanking and transporting missions. The technology supports inflight refueling operators by providing a picture of the air-to-air tanking process, even in bad visual conditions.

Boeing was unable to use the KDC-10 Tanker Remote Vision System (TRVS) because the technology does not meet U.S. Air Force requirements for the KC-46. The 1980s design does not support covert aerial refueling missions or operate in all lighting and background conditions. Boeing says that is why it opted to build a system featuring high-resolution cameras, display and processing capability.

Some critics believe the Air Force and Boeing would both be better off if the remote vision system outfitting the KC-46 adopted pieces of the TRVS, given the new aircraft has experienced years of delays and cost overruns. Boeing took a $551 million charge in the first quarter because of changes agreed to by both the company and the Air Force in April for the KC-46 Remote Vision System (RVS).

The redesign includes high-definition color cameras, updated displays and computing systems. The problem with the initial RVS design is what the Air Force called a “rubber sheet” effect that distorts the image on the visual display used by the boom operator during refueling.

To date, Boeing has taken more than $4 billion in charges for the problem-plagued tanker. This is roughly the same amount the company was willing to pay for Embraer's commercial aircraft division before it walked away from that deal.

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