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New tanker design finalized ahead of schedule

Maj. Gen. Ken Merchant, director, Global Reach Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C, pilots the KC-46 refueling tanker flight simulator Sept. 4, 2013, outside of the Pentagon.  Merchant said his flight on the simulator reaffirmed his belief in the importance of new tanker.

Maj. Gen. Ken Merchant, director, Global Reach Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C, pilots the KC-46 refueling tanker flight simulator Sept. 4, 2013, outside of the Pentagon. Merchant said his flight on the simulator reaffirmed his belief in the importance of new tanker.

Maj. Damen Forte (right), who's been aircrew on the KC-135 Stratotanker and the C-17 Globemaster III, is at the controls to the Air Force's newest tanker, the KC-46, with Greg Bulkley, chief technical pilot for Boeing's KC-46.

Maj. Damen Forte (right), who's been aircrew on the KC-135 Stratotanker and the C-17 Globemaster III, is at the controls to the Air Force's newest tanker, the KC-46, with Greg Bulkley, chief technical pilot for Boeing's KC-46.

Boeing, the lead contractor for the Air Force’s new refueling tanker, brought their simulator to the Pentagon Sept. 4, 2013.  During the visit, Airmen were able to learn about the aircraft and fly the KC-46 simulator.

Boeing, the lead contractor for the Air Force’s new refueling tanker, brought their simulator to the Pentagon Sept. 4, 2013. During the visit, Airmen were able to learn about the aircraft and fly the KC-46 simulator.

Maj. Gen. Ken Merchant, director, Global Reach Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C, pilots the KC-46 refueling tanker flight simulator Sept. 4, 2013 outside of the Pentagon.

Maj. Gen. Ken Merchant, director, Global Reach Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C, pilots the KC-46 refueling tanker flight simulator Sept. 4, 2013 outside of the Pentagon.

Airmen and civilians got to test out the Air Force's newest refueling tanker, the KC-46, outside the Pentagon during a visit from Boeing's simulator team Sept. 4, 2013. Visitors had the opportunity to fly the simulator and operate the refueling boom.

Airmen and civilians got to test out the Air Force's newest refueling tanker, the KC-46, outside the Pentagon during a visit from Boeing's simulator team Sept. 4, 2013. Visitors had the opportunity to fly the simulator and operate the refueling boom.

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

The Air Force officially closed the KC-46 Weapon System Critical Design Review (CDR) on August 21, one month ahead of the Sept. 24 contractual date. 

This formal closure of the July Weapon System Design Review represents the culmination of more than 10 months of component and sub-system design reviews, resolution of all resulting action items and completion of all CDR criteria established in the Air Force’s contract with Boeing. 

Closure of CDR formally establishes the KC-46 design and now allows the program to progress into its manufacturing and development test phases. 

The KC-46 is based on the Boeing 767-200ER commercial aircraft.  Design review activities blended best practices of commercial and Department of Defense frameworks, leading to overall improvements.

Boeing will now proceed with integration, verification, and production of four engineering and manufacturing development aircraft to support flight testing, scheduled to begin in mid-2014.  The first fully equipped KC-46 tanker is projected to fly in early 2015. 

“This build and test phase is another critical step toward meeting the KC-46 contractual Required Assets Available date -- a milestone requiring 18 KC-46 aircraft and all necessary support to be on the ramp, ready to support warfighter needs by the August 2017 timeframe,” said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force program executive officer for tankers.  “To succeed will require the focused efforts from all members of the team.”

The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 KC-46 refueling tankers to begin recapitalizing the more than 50-year old KC-135 fleet. Production will ramp up to deliver 179 tankers by 2028.

(Courtesy Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

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