737-900 fuselage assembly at Wichita plant. Courtesy, Boeing

Boeing will close the Wichita, Kan., facility where it converts commercial airliner frames into military aircraft by the end of next year, the company announced Wednesday.

The announcement, although not unexpected, will bring to a close one of Boeing’s longest running and most historic manufacturing facilities. Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since it bought Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1929 and it built major commercial airliner parts there until spinning off that part of the business in 2005.

In a statement, Boeing Defense, Space and Security VP and GM Mark Bass said the decision to close the facility was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment and Boeing’s ability to remain competitive.

Boeing Wichita employs more than 2,160 employees and is the base for the company's Global Transport & Executive Systems business and its B-52 and 767 International Tanker programs.

"In this time of defense budget reductions, as well as shifting customer priorities, Boeing has decided to close its operations in Wichita to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and drive competitiveness," Bass said. "We will begin program transitions in the coming months, with the complete closure of the site scheduled for the end of 2013. We do not anticipate job reductions as a result of this decision until early in the third quarter of 2012."

Future military aircraft maintenance, modification and support work will be placed at the Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas, and engineering will go to Oklahoma City. Work on the US Air Force’s refueling tanker will be performed in Puget Sound, Wash.

Boeing spinoff Spirit AeroSystems builds 737 fuselages in Wichita (ATW, Nov. 1, 2011).