SEATTLE, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Boeing has opened a center for assembling refueling booms for U.S. Air Force KC-46 aerial tankers and is beginning work on the first unit.
The assembly line is located at Boeing Field in Seattle and opened on Tuesday.
"We're pleased that this facility opened on schedule," said Maureen Dougherty, KC-46 vice president and program manager for Boeing. "The KC-46A will feature a modernized fly-by-wire boom based on the proven system on the U.S. Air Force's KC-10 tanker, which will give it advanced refueling capabilities, allowing it to refuel any fixed-wing receiver aircraft anytime and on any mission."
Boeing begins production of the KC-46 next summer. It is a variant of the company's 767-200ER commercial aircraft and will replace the Air Force's KC-135 tankers. A total of 179 KC-46s will be produced for the Air Force.
The first 18 KC-46s are scheduled for delivery by 2017.
Boeing said the first KC-46 aerial refueling boom will enter testing in the third quarter of next year at a company System Integration Lab.