The US Air Force has awarded a $216m contract to Boeing to upgrade its fleet of 59 KC-10 tanker aircraft with a new communication, navigation, surveillance and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system.

Boeing will upgrade the KC-10 fleet to comply with the 2015 CNS/ATM Federal Aviation Administration / International Civil Aviation Organisation standards.

The upgrade will allow shared access within both civil and military airspace to enable tanker refuelling operations worldwide.

Under the five-year contract, Boeing will carry out design and development work at its facility in Long Beach, California.

The firm will modify and flight test the first aircraft in 2012 at its San Antonio facility, and will complete and deliver the final KC-10 modification in 2015.