Boeing says to lay off 25 pct of Wichita workforce

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NEW YORK, Apr 17 (Reuters) Boeing Co. said today it planned to lay off 900 employees, or 25 percent of its workforce from its operations in Wichita, Kansas, citing defense budget cuts, delays in some contracts and the completion of others.

The planned cuts, which will leave Boeing's Wichita workforce at 2,700, come on top of 334 layoffs previously announced at the operations.

The top US planemaker said the latest round of job cuts will result in part from the completion of a contract to install new engines for Eisenhower-era KC-135 US Air Force refueling tankers.

The remaining Wichita employees will focus on military Boeing 747 jumbo jets and other widebody modifications and upgrades, Boeing said.

The site includes production of Boeing 767 refueling tankers, for which there are just a handful of orders from countries like Japan and Italy.

In 2004 Congress killed a 23.5 billion dollar US Air Force plan to lease and buy 100 of the tankers after Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force weapons buyer, admitted to inflating the deal before taking a 250,000 dollar-a-year job with Boeing.

The Pentagon said last week it had cleared the Air Force to resume its quest to replace KC-135s, setting the stage for a competition between Boeing and European defense contractor EADS. An invitation for bids is expected to go out later this year.

Boeing said an initial round of 60-day layoff notices will go out on Tuesday to 360 workers, mostly salaried and management support employees within its defense unit.

Another 240 workers are due to be laid off at the end of July with a final 300 due to loose their jobs in mid-November, Boeing said.

REUTERS PDS PM0151

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