Boeing starts up KC-46A tanker aircraft production
Boeing has begun production of the KC-46A aerial refuelling tanker for the US Air Force, with the first wing spar loaded at the company’s facilities in Everett. Boeing will deliver 179 tankers to the US military over the next 14 years.
The KC-46A will undergo the US Air Force’s Critical Design Review beginning in July.
Maj Gen John Thompson, US Air Force Program Executive Officer for Tankers, said: ‘The [US] Air Force is really excited and pleased that our No. 1 modernisation priority has begun fabrication and entered the factory at Everett. The Boeing team continues to make significant progress in the KC-46 development programme.’
The spar is the main structural component of the wing, at 82 feet 5 inches long. On the aircraft, it provides critical support for flight loads and the weight of the wings when the plane is not flying. Boeing is also preparing the 767 production line for assembly of the next-generation tanker’s aft and forward body structures. The aircraft will be assembled in November and roll out of the factory in January.
Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president and KC-46 Tanker program manager, said: ‘We are building on the strong partnership that the air force and Boeing have developed during the past two years. From the enhanced flight deck to the modernised boom, our tanker will provide unequaled capabilities that will allow it to offload more fuel and carry more passengers, cargo and medical patients.’
Next June, Boeing will begin installation of military-unique systems on the aircraft at Boeing Field in Seattle as well as testing. First flight for the fully provisioned tanker is scheduled for early 2015, with first delivery in 2016.
Boeing expects to build and deliver the first 18 KC-46As by 2017 and a total of 179 by 2027 if all options under the contract are exercised.
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