The Air Force awarded Boeing a $2.8 billion contract to begin low-rate initial production Lots 1 and 2 for the KC-46A tanker programme.

On 12 August, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official cleared the KC-46A for Milestone C, which allows the programme to move into initial production for delivery to operational squadrons. The recent contract directs funding for seven LRIP aircraft, two spare engines and five wing refueling pod kits in Lot 1. Lot 2 will include 12 LRIP aircraft, two LRIP spare engines and five LRIP wing refueling pod kits.

“It’s an important day for the company and program," says Leanne Caret, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense and Space. "We’re excited about building low-rate initial production aircraft, and it’s only possible because of the hard work of the joint Boeing-Air Force team.”

KC-46 refuels A-10 640

Although work is expected to complete in August 2018, Boeing has previously reported that the Cobham wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs) will not be delivered until October 2018. While Boeing will equip the initial 18 aircraft with refueling boom and centerline drogue refueling capabilities, the WARPs fulfill the Air Force’s required assets available milestone.

Boeing had expected a low-rate initial production decision in June, but an axial load issue on the refueling boom pushed the LRIP date back to August. Earlier this summer, Boeing implemented a hardware-based solution for the refueling issue, which involved inserting two bypass valves in the fly-by-wire-controlled boom to relieve the aerodynamic pressure.