Tankers Falling Apart as Air Force Waits for New Boeing KC-46A

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A U.S. Air Force KC-10 refueling tanker from the 60th Air Mobility Wing stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California lost its refueling boom on Tuesday and had to make an emergency landing at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. The incident occurred during a training exercise as the tanker was preparing to refuel F-15s. There were no injuries as a result of the incident.

In August the Air Force awarded a $2.8 billion contract to Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) for production of the first 19 new KC-46A tankers to be delivered by August 2018. The new tankers will be produced in two lots: Lot 1 consists of seven planes and lot 2 will have the remaining 12.

The total number of new tankers is set at 179 to replace less than half the exiting fleet of 59 KC-10 and nearly 400 KC-135 tankers. The KC-135s  average 55 years old and the newer KC-10s average 30 years old, according to an article last year in Air Force Times.

According to a report in Aviation Week, the boom was found on private property near Hammett, Idaho, and subsequently recovered.

The new Boeing tankers were supposed to begin deliveries to the Air Force next year, but a series of problems have pushed the schedule out until 2018. The KC-46A is based on Boeing’s 767 jet. Boeing built two 767-2Cs and two KC-46As as part of its engineering and manufacturing development contract with the Air Force. The fixed price for those planes was $4.9 billion. Boeing has had to swallow about $2 billion in costs above that figure, but it may be worth it. The total value of the contract could exceed $100 billion, including spare parts and other services.