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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.