| WASHINGTON, July 18
WASHINGTON, July 18 A Boeing Co aerial
tanker built to refuel other warplanes during flight is expected
to win final approval soon following an important design review
conducted in early July by the U.S. Air Force, according to the
The KC-46 tanker, based on Boeing's commercial 767 airplane,
is meant to replace the 50-year-old KC-135 platform. The latest
review is one of the last steps needed in the $52 billion
program to move on to production. The final report will not be
finished for a few weeks, an Air Force spokesman said.
"Boeing believes the review went well and initial feedback
from our customer has been positive," Boeing spokesman Jerry
Drelling said in an email. "Final approval by the USAF is
anticipated in the near future."
This review has come well ahead of Boeing's Sept. 24
contractual deadline and the company is on track to deliver the
first tanker by 2016, Drelling said.
The Air Force signed a contract in 2011 for 179 tankers,
with 18 to be delivered by 2017. The rest are scheduled to be
delivered by 2028.
"The efforts by the combined Boeing and Air Force team to
get to this point in the program development have been
tremendous," Major General John Thompson, the program's
executive officer, said in a statement. "For the warfighter,
completion of this milestone is a big step forward."
The tanker program is one of the Pentagon's largest weapons
initiatives and has been closely scrutinized since its
decade-long contest with France's Airbus and an ethics
scandal resulted in two Boeing officials getting sentenced to
prison in 2004.