EVERETT, Wash., Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Boeing reports it has begun assembly of the third of four KC-46A test aircraft for the U.S. Air Force in a production schedule to be completed late next year.
The KC-46A airframe is based on the company's 767 jetliner and will replace the Air Force's aging KC-135 aerial refueling tankers.
"In addition to the three KC-46A tankers now in production, our system integration labs are operational and we're assembling a second (refueling) boom," said Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president and KC-46 Tanker program manager. "We remain on track to deliver the initial 18 KC-46A tankers by 2017."
Boeing said the first test aircraft will roll out early next year and the first test flight of a fully outfitted KC-46A tanker is projected for early 2015. The first delivery of a production aircraft to the Air Force is planned for early the following year.
If the Air Force exercises all its production contract options, Boeing expects to build 179 tankers by 2027.