Boeing Tanker Making ‘Excellent Progress,’ Air Force Says

Boeing Co.’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker “continues to make excellent progress,” more than a year after the company won the contract, the Air Force’s mobility chief said today.

“We continue to execute the program to cost and schedule baselines we established, along with Boeing,” Air Mobility Command commander General Raymond Johns told a House Armed Services Committee panel today.

Johns made the comment in testimony on airlift requirements to meet the Pentagon’s new global strategy presented in January. The remarks on the tanker were similar to a Feb. 12 letter to congressional defense committees from Acting Under Secretary for Acquisition Frank Kendall.

“To date, there have been no major engineering, design, capability or configuration changes to the KC-46,” Kendall wrote.

The tanker program is scheduled to undergo a “preliminary design review” this month intended to ensure the system is ready to proceed into detailed design and can meet its war-fighting requirements within its cost and schedule goals.

The review is the second major one since Boeing won a $4.9 billion development job in February 2011, when it beat the European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. for the initial contract to replace the Air Force tanker fleet.

Preliminary Design

The preliminary design phase starts in late March and goes a month, program manager Major General Christopher Bogdan said in an interview. About 270 items will be reviewed in that phase, he said.

“This review is important because once we give Boeing the OK to go past” the assessment “they will start the detailed design and start making the drawings they will pass to their suppliers for manufacturing,” Bogdan said.

Boeing has agreed to start major assembly of the first tanker between April and July 1 of 2013, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force has requested $1.8 billion in fiscal 2013 for continued research. Procurement spending starts with $1.65 billion in fiscal 2015, increasing to $3.3 billion in 2017.

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