Eighteen months into the Boeing KC-46 tanker programme, all is progressing as planned, says Maj Gen John Thompson, the US Air Force programme manager.
The programme, which is meant to produce an aerial tanker to replace the Boeing KC-135, is 21% finished with its development schedule, and remains on time and on budget.
The first parts - skin for the tail boom - have been produced, "so if someone tells you this is a paper plane, you can point at them and say, 'liar!'" says Thompson.
"I will have plenty of number two and number three priorities, but my number one priority is to successfully get through the critical design review [CDR] next year," he says.
The CDR process is scheduled for July 2013, with a plethora of subsystem preliminary design reviews to be completed beforehand. After CDR, the aircraft will be built. The first flight of the new 767 variant on which the KC-46 is based is scheduled for 2014, with a 2015 flight of the actual tanker.
Budget sequestration, scheduled to take effect in January 2013 without Congressional intervention, would be "near catastrophic" for the programme, warns Thompson.