MELBOURNE, Fla., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. firm Northrop Grumman has announced that its first KC-30 Tanker aircraft held its maiden flight Tuesday.
Northrop Grumman said the successful flight confirmed "the production strategy selected by Northrop Grumman Corporation's KC-30 industry team for the U.S. Air Force's KC-135 tanker replacement program."
"The first KC-30 Tanker successfully executed a nearly four-hour flight after completing assembly in less than 75 days. The aircraft will be ready for installation of refueling and military systems in November," the company said.
Northrop Grumman said its aircraft 'D-1' "flew for nearly four hours and will be the first aircraft delivered to the U.S. Air Force if the Northrop Grumman team is awarded the KC-X contract. Contract award is currently expected in December 2007 or early January 2008."
The company said that the KC-30 Tanker's commercial airframe, the A330, was "a highly successful market leader in its class. The active, flexible and high-volume commercial production line for the A330 is supported by a fully operational industrial supply chain that includes leading U.S.-based suppliers."
"More than 1,281 A330s have been delivered and ordered to date, serving 87 operators worldwide. Current orders for the commercial A330 exceed 300 aircraft, with this number expected to grow considerably," Northrop Grumman said.
"The A330 is also highly successful in the world's military tanker market, having won the last three international tanker competitions head-to-head against the KC-767. Australia, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates have all selected the A330 platform to serve as their next-generation tanker," the company said.
"Our KC-30 Tanker production plan leverages a highly successful commercial market leader that gives the U.S. Air Force a proven, reliable, and flexible production process. We're providing a modern aircraft that is available today with a considerable backlog for the future, a process we will transfer to our production facility in Mobile, Alabama," said Paul Meyer, Northrop Grumman vice president and general manager of the KC-30 program.