Boeing Tanker Contract to ‘Fuel’ U.S. Industry & Jobs!

Carl ChanceEditor Carl Chance, Wings Over Kansas’ aviation & aerospace correspondent, former news consultant and producer for Wingspan Air & Space Channel.

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] announced on June 22, 2011, the nationwide supplier team that will provide key components for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46 Tanker. The Air Force selected Boeing on Feb. 24 to replace 179 Eisenhower-era KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft.

"Delivering 18 combat-ready tankers to the U.S. Air Force in 78 months is our priority as a company, and it will take a talented, committed supplier team to help get that done," said Maureen Dougherty, Boeing KC-46 vice president and program manager. "We’re fortunate to have a strong defense industry team of domain experts working side-by-side to provide a new generation of aerial refueling."

The KC-46 Tanker team will include more than 800 suppliers in more than 40 states and support approximately 50,000 total U.S. jobs. Among the major suppliers, Spirit AeroSystems will build the forward fuselage section strut; nacelle components to include inlet, fan cowl and core cowl; fixed fan duct, in Wichita, Kansas.

KC-46 Statistics:

Based on the proven Boeing 767-200ER commercial aircraft, the KC-46 is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4062 engines and will be flown by three aircrew members (pilot, co-pilot, boom operator) with additional permanent seating for 12 aircrew.

The KC-46 has a maximum fuel capacity of 212,000 pounds and is equipped with a flush-mounted, air-to-air refueling receptacle that is capable of onloading fuel at 1,200 gallons per minute.

Boom operators will control the refueling systems from the crew compartment via the AROS and a series of cameras mounted on the tanker’s fuselage that provide a 185-degree field of view, as well as a camera on the boom that captures 3-D video. This advanced system allows the boom operator to refuel all fixed-wing receiver aircraft, anytime, on every mission, to include simultaneous multi-point refueling from the wing air refueling pods. The KC-46 refueling systems include a digital fly-by-wire boom capable of offloading 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, as well as a permanent centerline drogue system and removable wing air refueling pods that can each offload 400 gallons of fuel per minute.

Featuring a maximum takeoff weight of 415,000 pounds, the tanker will carry 18 463L cargo pallets (the same number of pallets as the Air Force’s Boeing C-17 airlifter) and is capable of transporting 58 passengers normally and up to 114 passengers during contingency operations. This multi-mission tanker aircraft also will provide urgent aeromedical evacuation by transporting 58 medical patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory).

Boeing will build the KC-46 Tanker using a low-risk approach to manufacturing by a trained and experienced workforce at existing facilities in Everett, Wash., and Wichita.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 65,000 employees worldwide. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingDefense.

A Grandstanding Politician:

Senator John McCain became a naysayer for the Boeing Tanker Program, criticizing the contract after the award was made to Boeing on February, 2011. Senator McCain wrote a ten-paragraph letter dated July 15, 2011 to The Honorable Ashton B. Carter, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics detailing his cost concerns of overrun for the Boeing KC-46 Tanker. Richard Aboulafia, Teal Group aerospace analyst stated according to Ted Reed of The Street news source, “This is the kind of problem that defense contractors have, grandstanding by politicians.” Aboulafia went on to say, “Is McCain just noticing the contract terms?”

Boeing Statement:

Jerry Drelling, KC-46 Tanker Program Communications, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, shared the following approved Boeing Company statement, which brings the facts into the proper focus:

“We submitted an aggressive but responsible bid for the tanker program that responds to both the needs of the warfighter and the U.S. taxpayer. We bid to win, and we fully understand our responsibilities under the initial EMD program and our contract to complete the work. We are executing on-plan, and will deliver the KC-46 for the taxpayers on-cost and on-schedule to our customers.
Overrun” is an inaccurate and inappropriate description because it implies that we are overrunning our price commitment to our customer. In fact, as stipulated in Section M of the U.S. Air Force’s Request for Proposal, all competitor proposals were evaluated at the ceiling value. As such, no additional costs will accrue to the government beyond what was evaluated for Boeing’s winning proposal. And internal cost projections are just that, projections. As a matter of good business practice and regulatory imperative, Boeing will adjust these projections, as appropriate, throughout the life of the KC-46 program based on the most current data available.
Our KC-46 tanker development program is proceeding on cost and on schedule per the contract we were awarded by the Air Force in February. As the “clear winner” of the KC-X competition, our aggressive but responsible winning bid provides the most advanced tanker ever produced for the warfighter at the lowest cost for the taxpayer, while also returning value to Boeing shareholders. We’re proud of our performance and role on this vital national security program, and we intend to continue meeting all of our commitments.
We expect to make money on the KC-46 tanker program. In addition, the KC-46 contract opens additional opportunities including potential U.S. and international tanker sales and related services for decades to come.”

Additional Information of Interest:

I am recommending the following related subject information to be found on the Internet. Bill Barksdale of The Boeing Company wrote an article titled, “Maneuverability Makes the Difference.” Access it at,

Another article, “Air Force on track with KC-46A program,” was written by Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs, can be found at, An interesting insight into the long term Tanker replacement problem is titled, “The Tanker Deal: Naming the Real Culprit!” Written by Walter J. Boyne, Author, Historian and Contributing Correspondent and History Author to Wings Over The article can be found at, Mr. Boyne had stated, “There is as much strategy as tactics involved when bidding a contract; the contractor has to look into the future and see what the possibilities are that initial risks will be covered by subsequent fortuitous events. The alternative is to bid high to avoid risk – and by doing so, lose the contract.” If you’re interested in Aerial Refueling History, go to, And finally, the article, “Wichita’s refueling idea became aviation mainstay” by Stan Finger of The Wichita Eagle, can be accessed at,

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Credited Sources:
William Barksdale, Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
Jerry Drelling, KC-46 Tanker Program Communications, Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
Ted Reed, Reporter, The Street News Source.