Boeing Defense, Space & Security (Boeing Co. IW500/9) has a new, $2.8-billion U.S. Air Force contract to start low-rate initial production for two “production lots” of the KC-46A tanker aircraft. The first lot involves seven aircraft, while the second covers 12 aircraft. Including future options, Boeing expects to build 179 of these refueling and strategic airlift aircraft for the USAF.

This step follows a Defense Acquisition Board review and announcement that the KC-46 program completed “Milestone C” (a series of ground and flight tests) and is approved for initial production. Those tests included refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, KC-10, C-17, and A-10 aircraft and a cargo handling demo.

The KC-46 Pegasus was developed by Boeing for military aerial refueling and strategic military transport, and is based on the twin-engine, wide-body platform long occupied by the 767 passenger jet program. In 20111, the design was selected by the USAF in a competition to replace its KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.

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