BOEING DISCLOSES TANKER NUMBERS WIN WOULD SECURE WORK FOR UP TO 6,000 IN EVERETT

If The Boeing Co. wins the competition to supply air-refueling tankers to the Air Force, the victory would mean employment "well into the future" for the 5,000 to 6,000 men and women who now build 767 commercial jets in Everett, the head of Boeing's...


Albaugh said the 767 tanker being offered by Boeing, as well as the KC-30 tanker offered by the Northrop-EADS team, are both more capable than the existing Air Force tankers. That means the Air Force will likely need only about 350 to 400 new tankers to replace those 550 older planes, he said.

But that does not include the international market.

"I could easily see another 100 tankers out there," Albaugh said.

The Northrop team is offering the Air Force a tanker based on the Airbus A330-200 commercial jet. The planes for the Air Force would be assembled and modified as tankers in Mobile, Ala.

The Air Force has said it wants an operational squadron of about a dozen tankers in 2013. Whoever wins the tanker competition, however, will have a lot of flexibility in deciding how it meets that requirement.

Boeing is figuring on a tanker production rate at its Everett plant of about 15 planes a year.

The current 767 assembly line turns out about one commercial plane a month. As of June, Boeing had 59 of its commercial 767 jets left to built, 27 of them freighters ordered earlier this year by UPS.

Many military experts believe that the Air Force, when it is time to call for bids for the next batch of tankers, could want a bigger plane, such as Boeing's 777.

But Albaugh did not discount the 787 as a future tanker.

"It would make a pretty good tanker at some point in time," he said.

The Dreamliner won't enter airline service until next year. It will be the first large jetliner with a composite airframe. The 787 is designed to be as much as 20 percent more fuel efficient than other midsize jets, such as the 767 and A330.

Albaugh said developing derivatives of Boeing's jetliners for the military will be an important growth area for the company.

"Obviously we think on the horizon there are a lot of commercial derivative airplanes we can leverage the power of an integrated company to deliver on."

For example, the Navy has ordered the 737 to replace its fleet of P-3 Orion sub hunters.

And the 737 is being developed as an airborne early warning and control plane for Australia and Turkey.

Developing such aircraft could mean more Boeing jobs in the Puget Sound area, he said.

About 6,500 Integrated Defense Systems employees work in the area now, Albaugh said.

P-I aerospace reporter

James Wallace can be

reached at 206-448-8040

or jameswallace@seattlepi.com

Read his Aerospace blog at

blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace.



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