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Boeing Seeks KC-46A Tanker Exports as Talks With Buyers Progress

Boeing Co., the world’s largest planemaker, is in talks with several potential buyers for its KC-46A aerial refueling tanker as it aims to make the aircraft available for export one year ahead of its 2018 target.

Boeing’s defense unit is working with the commercial division to offer the aircraft to overseas customers from 2017, Jeff Kohler, Boeing’s vice president for military international business development, told reporters in Paris today. The company is discussing export orders for about 20 tankers, with more in the pipeline, he said.

Delivering on the U.S. Air Force program remains the priority, even as the company explores Middle East, Asian and European sales prospects, said Chris Raymond, who oversees business development for Boeing Defense. Boeing has committed to delivering 18 KC-46As, which are based on the 767 commercial airliner platform, to the Pentagon before 2018.

Faced with budget reductions in its home market, Boeing is hunting for overseas sales to keep production lines open and bolster sales. Building the C-17 transport planes has been sustained by exports, with the company seeking 10 to 30 more orders to keep the jet in production beyond 2014, Kohler said.

Boeing also is in talks for additional exports of its P-8 maritime patrol plane based on its best-selling 737 passenger jet. India is already an export customer, with talks to sell 25 more units outside the U.S. underway, Kohler said. Boeing is working to adapt the P-8 technology to a smaller plane to appeal to customers that can’t afford the larger version.

The company, based in Chicago, is in talks with Bombardier Inc. about providing a business jet for the P-8 platform, with other manufacturers available as a backup, he said.

Boeing is modifying a company-owned Challenger business jet, also built by Bombardier, to demonstrate the technologies for its small maritime-watch plane, Kohler said.

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