As I mentioned earlier, the first-ever 767 tanker is being delivered this week to the Italian Air Force.
Three more will be delivered to Italy (though the tanker modification will be done in Italy instead of in Wichita) and four will go to Japan (of which three will be modified in Italy, as well). The United Arab Emirates are considering purchasing two or three, as well. But beyond that there’s nothing.
If the US Air Force doesn’t go with 767-based tankers, it might be the end of the 767 line forever.
“We’ve had line breaks before,” Stonecipher says. “We broke the line on the F-15 a number of years ago and actually restarted that line in 1993. Line breaks are expensive, they’re inconvenient, but it depends on how bad people want 767s.”
I didn’t remember that the F-15 line restarted after a shut-down. That can’t be cheap. But I’ve said before that if the USAF wants tankers bad enough and Boeing wants to keep building 767s bad enough, some sort of deal should be reachable.
Also, another option exists of which I was unaware:
Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, says there’s a chance a dedicated tanker production line could be established that would reduce the modification costs by 50 percent. However, he says, there would still be tanker work that would need to be done in Wichita.
It really seems to me that something should be do-able.