Boeing begins assembly on tanker refueling boom

The Boeing Co. has opened refueling tanker boom assembly center at Seattle’s Boeing Field, the company said Tuesday.

This week, Boeing workers will begin assembling the first refueling boom for the KC-46 tankers the company is supplying to the U.S. Air Force. Boom assembly marks the program’s shift to production from design activities, the company said in a statement.

“It’s a big day for the KC-46 Tanker Program and the U.S. Air Force,” Maj. Gen. John Thompson, U.S. Air Force Tanker Program Executive Officer and KC-46 Program Director, said in the statement. “Boeing continues to make good progress toward delivering the KC-46 Tanker on schedule.”

Boeing said it’s still on track to deliver 18 tankers to the Air Force by 2017.

The next major milestone is a review by the Air Force of Boeing’s tanker plans next summer. Boeing also is expected to begin production on the first tanker in Everett in the summer of 2013. The aircraft is a variant of the 767-200 Extended Range jet built in Everett.

In the third quarter of 2013, Boeing will send the first boom produced at Boeing Field through testing.

The aerospace company won a $35 billion contract in 2011 to replace 179 of the Air Force’s KC-135 tankers.

Government funding for Boeing’s tanker programhas been a concern recently. The Pentagon’s budget will be slashed on Jan. 1 under an automatic government spending cut, called sequestration, unless Congress comes up with another budgetary solution.

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