Boeing tanker design gets official Air Force blessing

The Boeing Co. and the U.S. Air Force today announced they have reached agreement on the final design of the KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker, which will be built in Everett and is derived from the Boeing 767.

The two parties held formal sessions about the design in early July and then announced the review complete, but there were loose ends, and the so-called Critical Design Review wasn’t officially date-stamped until Aug. 21. That’s still a month ahead of schedule.

Boeing began assembling the first KC-46A at the Everett factory in June and work on the second plane began last month. The company has begun building the second of five test booms, meanwhile, at Boeing Field.

Said Air Force Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the executive officer for tankers, in a statement issued today: “This build and test phase is another critical step toward meeting the KC-46 contractual Required Assets Available date — a milestone requiring 18 KC-46 aircraft and all necessary support to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs by the August 2017 timeframe. To succeed will require the focused efforts from all members of the team.”

If all goes well for Boeing, the company will build 179 tankers worth billions of dollars. The KC-46A will replace elderly KC-135s, some of which are almost as old as I.

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