The US Air Force's KC-46 programme manager says that Boeing could market a freighter derivative of the tanker's 767-2C airframe to civil operators.

"That potentially is an airplane that Boeing could with--minor modifications--market as a 767 freighter," says Major General Christopher Bogdan. "We've already seen some of that, as you may recall, about a month-and-a-half ago, FedEx made an order for 767 freighters."

Federal Express has ordered 30 Boeing 767-300F freighters which will help mature the production line for the service's next-generation tanker.

Some of the design and engineering features including the cargo door and cargo floor are the same as for the KC-46, Bogdan says. "So there is obviously some synergy for Boeing there," he says.

"The other good thing for our programme is FedEx is going to get delivered their cargo freighter airplanes before ours," Bogdan says. "So that means that Boeing's going to have to mature the production line for that airplane before our airplane goes down the production line."

That should help reduce the risk to the USAF programme.

"That's a very good risk reduction for us," he says. "There will be lessons learned from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] testing that Boeing's got to do for the model version of the FedEx airplane."

80% of the KC-46 is derived from civil hardware that is common to Boeing commercial aircraft.

The 767-2C-on which the KC-46 is based--will have a fully-stressed cargo floor, a cargo door, and the entire aircraft has a "beefed-up structure," Bogdan says.

"The first flight of the 767-2C is going to be in the [third quarter] of 2014," Bogdan says.

Source: Flight International