SEATTLE, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- An integration laboratory to support testing of the U.S. Air Force's next-generation refueling tanker has been opened by Boeing.
The facility for the KC-46 program is known as KC-46 Tanker System Integration Laboratory and is at Boeing Field in Seattle. It will be used to test commercial avionics and software for integration into the aircraft.
Four additional labs will open by the end of next year, Boeing said.
"Our five System Integration Labs will help keep us on track to deliver the first 18 KC-46A tankers by 2017," said Maureen Dougherty, KC-46 vice president and program manager. "Accelerating system integration will drive out issues prior to flight testing and reduce risks to our schedule."
"The integration and test phase of the KC-46 program will draw on industry-leading expertise from across Boeing," said Dennis O'Donoghue, vice president, Boeing Test and Evaluation. "We have a strong and experienced team with an outstanding history of testing derivative aircraft."
The KC-46, with an airframe based on Boeing's commercial 767 aircraft, will eventually replace the Air Force's KC-135s.
Boeing said an assembly center for the aircraft's refueling boom has been opened at Boeing Field and a finishing center for installation of military hardware and software will open there late next year.
Boeing expects to build 179 KC-46A tankers for the Air Force.