Boeing set to supply tanker aircraft to US Air Force

Boeing has been awarded $3.5bn (£2.2bn) to supply the US Air Force with 179 next-generation aerial refuelling tanker aircraft.

Under the contract, Boeing will design, develop, manufacture and deliver 18 initial combat-ready KC-46A tankers by 2017.

Based on the Boeing 767 commercial aircraft, the KC-46A tanker is a wide-body, multi-mission aircraft said to be capable of meeting requirements for the transport of fuel, cargo, passengers and patients.

Boeing’s design was selected in preference to EADS’ KC-45 refuelling tanker.

In a statement, EADS North America said the US Air Force had selected a high-risk, concept aircraft over the KC-45.

‘This is certainly a disappointing turn of events and we look forward to discussing with the air force how it arrived at this conclusion,’ said EADS North America chairman Ralph D Crosby Jr.

If selected, EADS North America had committed to build the KC-45 at a new production facility in Mobile, Alabama, with a US supplier base of nearly 1,000 companies.

‘With a programme of such complexity, our review of today’s decision will take some time,’ said Crosby. ‘There are more than 48,000 Americans who are eager to build the KC-45 here in the US, and we owe it to them to conduct a thorough analysis.’

Michael Donley, secretary of the air force, said in a briefing that many factors were evaluated during the tanker selection process.

‘This selection process determined whether or not the proposals demonstrated the ability of an offerer to deliver all 372 mandatory requirements and whether non-mandatory capabilities would be addressed,’ he said. ‘It also took into account fleet mission effectiveness in wartime and lifecycle costs as embodied in fuel efficiency and military construction costs.’