Boeing begun assembly of the second Air Force KC-46A aerial refueling tanker this week at its Everett, Wash. plant, the company said Friday.
Less than two months ago, Boeing began assembly of the first of four engineering, manufacturing and development test aircraft.
Spirit AeroSystems builds the forward fuselage of the tanker, which is based on a Boeing commercial 767 airliner.
“Completing production of the four test aircraft on schedule is our priority as we prepare to enter the flight test phase of the program,” Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force executive officer for tankers, said in a statement. “The program continues to meet or exceed all contract milestones.”
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The first test plane is expected to roll out of the Boeing factory in January with the second following in March.
Boeing plans to make the first flight early in 2015 with first deliveries beginning in 2016.
The company plans to build and deliver the first 18 tankers by 2017 with a total of 179 delivered by 2027 if all options under the contract are exercised. The planes will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of Eisenhower-era aerial refueling tankers, which act as gas stations in the sky.
“We’re exactly where we want to be right now,” Maureen Dougherty, Boeing vice president and KC-45 tanker program manager, said in a statement.
In a year, all four test aircraft will be out of the factory and the first two will be flying, she said.