A top Boeing executive has filled in the date for a key milestone in the development of the KC-46A tanker, saying the deadline for completing "firm configuration" is in the third quarter.
Speaking to reporters in Seattle on 20 March, Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager for Boeing commercial airplane programmes, identified the milestone, which matches requirements with the engineering needs for the final design for the US Air Force's next tanker.
"The fuse is lit," Shanahan says. "We're off and running."
Boeing was awarded a $4.5 billion development contract on 24 February to modify four 767-based airliners into prototype military tankers. The USAF plans to buy 175 more tankers over a 13-year period, starting with the first 18 by the end of 2017.
"We worked that very, very hard and there were a lot of people that were involved in putting together that schedule, so now it's really about staffing it with the right people that have the right experience, so that on the requirements side and on the engineering side we nail that flat," Shanahan says.
The air force has signed a fixed priced, incentive-fee contract for the KC-46A, meaning the balance of the risk is assumed by Boeing in the event of cost overruns and schedule delays.
Shanahan notes that Boeing's recent experiences with breakdowns on the 787 and 747-8 development programmes helped shape the company's proposal for the so-called KC-X award.
"We did a lot of things on the 87 that were right and we did a lot of things that we probably should have done differently," he says. We've learned a lot on the [747-8] Intercontinental, so between - those are firm, fixed price development projects - so on this firm fixed-price development programme, we put together an executable schedule."
Boeing has still not revealed details of the planned configuration of the KC-46A, including whether the aircraft will mix together elements of different models of the 767.
Additional reporting by Jon Ostrower in Seattle