Boeing plans to roll out the first of four KC-767 tankers for Japan around mid-year and to deliver the aircraft at the end of this year. The manufacturer has already completed over 120h of flight tests on the first KC-767 for launch customer Italy, and vice-president for mobility programmes John Sams says it will only take one month, or 100 flight hours, to certificate Japan-unique equipment.

Italy’s aircraft, the first of which will also be delivered late this year, will be able to transport 200 passengers or 19 pallets, or a combination of 100 passengers and 10 pallets.

The Japanese KC-767 will not be able to operate in the combi mode, but will be able to accommodate 10 centreline cargo pallets.

The KC-767 is a derivative of the 767-200C with the addition of the cockpit from the more advanced 767-400, plus freighter floors and doors, installed at Boeing’s commercial aircraft factory in Everett, Washington. The aircraft’s short-field performance has also been improved by installing more powerful engines.

The first of the four Japanese KC-767s is now undergoing modifications at Boeing’s Wichita facility, while the second is still at Everett. The last three of its aircraft will be modified by Italy’s Aeronavali and delivered in 2007, with the company also modifying the final three Italian KC-767s.

For several years Boeing has been offering the KC-767 to the US Air Force, but is still waiting to be briefed on an analysis of alternatives completed earlier this year, which reportedly raises the possibility of a 777 tanker. “Our base case is the 767, but we’ll keep our options open,” Sams says.

The USAF is preparing to issue a new tender by year-end, but Sams says a further delay will not prevent Boeing from offering the 767 – even if the company decides later this year to halt 767 production. “The fact the commercial line may close is not an impediment to us offering the aircraft,” he says.


Source: Flight International