Boeing delivered the first of four KC-767 Tankers to Japan yesterday, 15 months behind schedule. Before leaving U.S. airspace on a 14-hour ferry flight to Gifu airbase neat Nagoya, it flew in formation with the No. 2 airplane that will follow after the Japan Air Self-Defense Force completes a formal acceptance process.
Japan expects to receive its first pair of KC-767 tankers by the end of this year’s first quarter as the controversial and much-maligned program’s development schedule at last appears firmly established.
The death of the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking procurement official on October 15 could well delay the crucial decision on whether Boeing or Northrop Grumman/Airbus wins the U.S Air Force KC-X tanker competition.
The rival contenders for the huge U.S. Air Force KC-X competition for a new aerial tanker have been briefing the relative merits of the KC-30 and the KC-767 all round the show this week. But political considerations apart–and there are plenty of those–it all boils down to a simple fact: size matters.
The first of four Boeing 767s destined for the Japan Tanker Program arrived at the modification center in Wichita, Kansas, last week for conversion into a KC-767 aerial refueler. The Japan defense agency ordered the tanker for the Japan air self defense force in 2001 after a competition between the KC-767 and the Airbus A310. Boeing plans to deliver the first Japanese KC-767 in December 2006.
Bloodied and bruised by the U.S. Air Force tanker fiasco, Boeing has fought back this week by bringing the first KC-767A to the Paris show. But yet another damning report on the aborted U.S. lease deal has not only further tarnished the company’s reputation but also cast doubt on whether the Pentagon really needs a new fleet of tankers anytime soon.
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