Air Force: Boeing KC-46A tanker on track

The Boeing Co. is on track to deliver aerial-refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force, having recently met another milestone on the program.

The company said Tuesday that it has completed a preliminary design review of the KC-46A with the Air Force. The review demonstrates that Boeing’s design meets system requirements, allowing the company to proceed with development of the 767-based tanker.

The Air Force review began March 21 and ended April 27. Boeing says it is on track to deliver 18 tankers by 2017.

“I’m happy with Boeing’s performance,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Chris Bogdan, KC-46 program executive officer, said in a statement. “They’re maintaining a very tight focus on meeting commitments and staying on or ahead of schedule.”

The next milestone for Boeing’s KC-46A tanker program comes in the summer of 2013, when the Air Force will review Boeing’s design to determine if the company is ready to proceed to the manufacturing phase.

In 2011, Boeing won the contract to replace 179 of the Air Force’s aging KC-135 tankers. The tanker, which is based on the commercial version of Boeing’s 767, will be built in Everett.

“Working closely with our Air Force teammates, we’ve made tremendous progress in the past 14 months and have the foundation in place to enter the detailed design phase,” said Maureen Dougherty, Boeing KC-46 tanker program manager.

Boeing beat out EADS, parent company of Airbus, for the $35 billion deal. Since winning the contract, however, Boeing has faced intense scrutiny over projected cost overruns for the initial tankers. The company’s decision not to do some of the tanker work at a Wichita, Kan., facility also has been questioned.

During an earnings conference call in April, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney expressed confidence in the company’s ability to meet cost and deadlines. To do so, Boeing will expend “a lot of elbow grease,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that this is an aggressively bid program, but the war fighter and our customer is benefiting from our efficiencies,” McNerney said.

Herald reporter Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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