The Air Force has approved the first round of low-rate production of Boeing’s KC-46 air refueling tanker, some of which are bound for McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.
The Air Force said in a news release it is working to award a $2.8 billion in contracts for the first two production lots – totaling 19 tankers and spare parts – in the next 30 days.
The approval comes after the tanker successfully completed refueling tests of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a C-17 Globemaster III and an A-10 Thunderbolt II using its boom as well as an AV-8 Harrier II and an F/A-18 Hornet using both hose and drogue systems.
The aircraft also successfully took fuel from a KC-10 Extender.
The tanker’s airframe is based off the Boeing 767 widebody airliner. Spirit AeroSystems manufactures the 767’s forward fuselage section, pylons, engine cowlings and wing leading edge.
The Air Force said McConnell and Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma will be the first bases to receive the first production tankers, deliveries of which are expected to be completed in early 2018.
Boeing was expecting to make its first KC-46 deliveries in March 2017 but this May announced a delay in deliveries because of changes it discovered it would have to make to the first 18 airplanes’ centerline drogue and wing-aerial refueling pod systems.
“The KC-46 is ready to take the next step,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in the release. “Our Air Force and Boeing team stepped up to meet the recent challenges.”
Boeing said in a news release Thursday it will take a $393 million after-tax charge ($0.62 per share) on the KC-46 Tanker program for schedule and technical challenges, including delays in the certification process and the cost of beginning production of the planes while still conducting late-stage development testing.
Last month, Boeing reported a $2 billion hit to its second quarter 2016 earnings, including the $393 million after-tax charge.