WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio, July 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force is lauding Boeing's start of assembly of the first of 179 KC-46 aerial tankers, which are replacing its aging fleet of KC-135s.
"We are excited and pleased that KC-46 fabrication has begun," said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, program executive officer for tankers at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.
"The Boeing team continues to make significant progress in the development of the Air Force's next tanker. The development effort is on track, detailed test planning is making good progress, and initial bed-down, training and sustainment planning is underway."
Boeing this week announced it had begun assembling the first KC-46 wing spar at its plant in Everett, Wash.
Under a 2011 contract, Boeing will produce 18 of the aircraft by 2017 and the balance of 179 aircraft on order by 2028.
The KC-46 tanker is derived from Boeing's 767-200ER passenger aircraft.
The first fully equipped KC-46 is scheduled to take to the air in early 2015.