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Boeing to build U.S. Air Force tankers

Artist's conception of a Boeing KC-XX preparing to refuel a B-1 bomber in flight

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Boeing has received a contract from the U.S. Air Force to build the next-generation aerial refueling tanker aircraft that will replace 179 of the service’s 400 KC-135 tankers. In this artist’s conception, a Boeing KC-46A prepares to refuel a B-1B bomber in flight.

The U.S. Air Force announced Thursday that it has selected Boeing’s NewGen Tanker to be its new KC-46A air refueling jet.

The contract award, which follows a rigorous Air Force review of industry proposals, means Boeing will build the next-generation tanker that will replace 179 of the service’s 1950s-era KC-135s.

Boeing officials said they are honored by the selection and will meet the Air Force’s requirement to deliver the first 18 combat-ready aircraft by 2017.

“This contract award would not have been possible without the hundreds of Boeing employees across the entire company, and the thousands of our industry teammates, who remained laser-focused on our commitment to offer a solution that is first in capability and best in value,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “This award is also a tribute to the Air Force and Defense Department officials who worked so tirelessly to make this procurement process fair, ultimately resulting in the selection of the right plane for the mission. We look forward to working with our Air Force customer to deliver this much needed capability to the servicemen and women we are honored to serve.”

Tankers are critical to the U.S. armed forces, extending the range of fighters, bombers and other aircraft by transferring fuel to them in flight. The NewGen Tanker combines the latest, most advanced technology with the proven Boeing 767 commercial airplane.

The NewGen Tanker has a modern, digital flight deck based on the new Boeing 787 commercial airliner, and advanced defensive systems so it can safely operate close to the fight. It meets or exceeds all Air Force requirements.

Boeing will build the NewGen Tanker with a low-risk approach. It will use a trained and experienced U.S. work force at existing facilities in Washington state and Kansas, and an existing supplier network in more than 40 states.

Boeing has built and supported tankers for more than 60 years, and company employees said they are rolling up their sleeves to begin work on this newest tanker right away.

To learn more about the KC-46A tanker, visit