KC-135 Stratotanker planes have been refueling fighter craft in-flight for more than 60 years. While such longevity is commendable, the US military’s fleet of mid-air refuellers is in desperate need of an update. And that’s where this new flying gas station comes in.
The Boeing KC-46A is a derivative of the Boeing 767-200 built at Boeing’s Everett, WA facility and converted to military use at another Boeing facility in Puget Sound. The KC-46 program has been a long time coming. Congress and the military have wrangled over funding for the project for more than a decade, finally agreeing to an initial investment of $3.5 billion in 2011 for Boeing’s design. The aerospace company has until 2017 to deliver the first 18 tankers with the remaining 161 due in 2028. In all, explains Maj. Gen. John Thompson, program executive officer and program director for the KC-46, the deal is "worth about $32 billion in then-year dollars, goes from about two years ago out into the 2020s and is something that they will be able to leverage into a very important weapon system for the United States Air Force for decades to come. Absolutely, it is a win-win."
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