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The Air Force said Thursday that Boeing’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker has successfully passed a program milestone called Critical Design Review.

Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the program executive officer for tankers, said the review is “a big step forward” for the tanker program and that “the overall design maturity of the tanker is at a high level.”

The final report is not yet written, but in a statement the Air Force said “the process is scheduled to be complete well in advance of the Sept. 24 contractual date.”

Boeing will then proceed into the fabrication, hardware and software integration, and test phase of the program.

The Air Force contracted with Boeing in February 2011 to acquire 179 tankers by 2028.

Boeing’s initial target is to deliver 18 tankers by 2017. The first fully-equipped KC-46 is projected to fly in early 2015.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or