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Modernized KC-46A Boom Assembly Begins

Boeing KC-46A Tanker employees (from left) Chris Johnson, Jim Prideaux and David Dean examine the skin of the first boom

Jim Anderson/Boeing

Boeing KC-46A Tanker employees (from left) Chris Johnson, Jim Prideaux and David Dean examine the skin of the first boom that is currently being assembled at Boeing Field in Seattle.

In February 2011, Boeing received a contract to design, build, and deliver the next-generation aerial refueling tanker for the U.S. Air Force. That work is well underway with the recent opening of the new KC-46A Boom Assembly Center at Boeing Field in Seattle.

The KC-46 will feature a modernized fly-by-wire KC-10 boom that will provide improved support and advanced refueling capabilities to refuel fixed and rotary-wing receiver aircraft.

Based on the Boeing 767 commercial airplane, the KC-46A will be capable of transporting fuel, cargo, passengers, and supporting aeromedical evacuations. The aircraft will feature the most advanced technology including a digital flight deck featuring Boeing 787 Dreamliner electronic pilot displays, and a state-of-the-art air refueling operator station.

Boeing Field is also home to the first KC-46 Tanker System Integration Laboratory (SIL), known as SIL 0. It is now testing commercial avionics and software for integration into the KC-46A tanker. Boeing plans to open four more SILs by the end of 2013.

Once completed, the first boom will enter testing at a wet fuels lab. The KC-46 program remains on plan to deliver the first 18 combat-ready tankers by 2017.