Boeing began production of the first KC-46A aerial refueler on June 26 as workers at the company’s Everett, Wash., plant loaded the first wing spar—a main structural component of the wing. Measuring 82 feet and 5 inches, the wing spar helps support flight loads as well as the weight of the wings when the plane is not flying, states a June 26 Boeing release. “The Air Force is really excited and pleased that our No. 1 modernization priority has begun fabrication and entered the factory at Everett,” said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, USAF program executive officer for tankers. The Air Force is expected to begin the critical design review of the program next month and Boeing is slated to begin installing “military-unique systems” onto the aircraft in June 2014, states the release. “From the enhanced flight deck to the modernized boom, our tanker will provide unequaled capabilities that will allow it to offload more fuel and carry more passengers, cargo, and medical patients,” said Maureen Daugherty, Boeing vice president and KC-46 Tanker program manager. The first flight of a fully provisioned KC-46A is scheduled for early 2015 with first delivery in 2016, states the release. Boeing will build and deliver 18 KC-46As by 2017 and a total of 179 tankers by 2027 if all contract options are exercised.
The Air Force isn’t giving up on its long-frustrated efforts to retire older aircraft, as the department’s leader continues to talk with lawmakers about plans to free up funds for its modernization efforts, Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones said Nov. 30.