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Air Force officials on Wednesday said they took "a major step forward" in the KC-46A tanker program by awarding a $78.4 million contract to FlightSafety Services of Centennial, Colo., for the development of the tanker's aircrew training system. The KC-46 is the Air Force's top acquisition priority. "This [contract] is a vital step in the development of KC-46A," said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force's tanker program executive officer, in the service's May 1 release. Under the contract's terms, FlightSafety Services is tasked to start delivering the first simulator-based aircrew training devices and courseware to the KC-46 schoolhouse and initial operational beddown locations in 2016 for use in preparing flight crews to operate the new tanker. The company will perform its work in Broken Arrow, Okla., and St. Louis. Contract options out to 2026, if exercised, will increase the contract's value, states the release. Boeing is under contract to provide 179 KC-46s to replace the Air Force's oldest KC-135s by 2028. The first KC-46 is scheduled to fly in 2015. (Wright-Patterson report by Daryl Mayer) (Pentagon's May 1 list of major contracts.) (See also KC-46 Details and the Sequester and Initial KC-46 Beddown in Fiscal 2014 MILCON Request.)