Boeing workers at the company’s Everett plant have begun building the first major piece of the company’s new KC-46A airborne tanker for the Air Force.
Those workers have begun building the wings for the twin-engine tanker, which is based on Boeing’s 767 airliner.
Final assembly of the first KC46-A will begin in November at the plant with the first aircraft due to roll out of the factory early next year. The plane will fly to Seattle’s Boeing Field in late spring next year to be outfitted with military equipment.
The first fully equipped tanker is expected to fly for the first time in early 2015 with delivery to the Air Force in 2016.
The Air Force has ordered an initial 18 of the tankers with the goal of expanding that order to include 179 of the planes.
Boeing hopes that order will grow much larger and that foreign governments will order the plane for their in-air refueling needs.
The aircraft will replace the aging KC-135 tankers, which were based on the Boeing 707. Some of those aircraft are more than 40 years old.
Boeing and European planemaker Airbus battled for the tanker order for years. Boeing first won the order, but that order was canceled because of evidence that Boeing had promised a Pentagon procurement officer with influence over the decision an executive position at Boeing when she retired.
Airbus won the second competition, but Boeing successfully appealed that award.
Boeing won the third contest in 2011, and Airbus and its parent company, EADS, didn’t appeal.