The first Boeing KC-46A tanker built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently refuelled another KC-46A aircraft in the skies over Washington state. The Japan-bound tanker also successfully received fuel in return.
“Refuelling with the first Japan KC-46A is an important milestone for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force,” said Jamie Burgess, KC-46 program manager. “KC-46A is the world’s most advanced air refuelling aircraft and has already transferred more than 42 million gallons of fuel to other aircraft globally through its boom and drogue systems.”
Japan is the KC-46 program’s first non-U.S. customer and is scheduled to receive its first aircraft this year.
“State-of-the-art refuelling makes the KC-46A a standout, but this tanker goes well beyond that,” said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. “The ability to carry cargo and passengers while maintaining tactical situational awareness makes the aircraft a critical tool in the security alliance between the U.S. and Japan.”
The Japan KC-46A is capable of refuelling US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft. The US Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A tanker in December 2017. The agreement was completed through the Foreign Military Sale process between the US government and Japan. A second Japan tanker is already in production. Boeing is assembling the KC-46A aircraft for both the US Air Force and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16 percent of the KC-46A airframe structure.
Boeing Interim Chief Financial Officer David Dohnalek recently said the KC-46 is being used more now that it is certified to refuel aircraft using the “joint force centreline hose-and-drogue system, which provides more daily operational capabilities.” The KC-46 is “of critical importance to our customer,” he said. Boeing has reported US$5 billion in cost overruns on the fixed-price KC-46 program so far, and the Air Force has said it is now beginning to look at a “bridge tanker” competition to replace remaining KC-135s once all KC-46s are delivered. Boeing is to supply 179 KC-46s to the US Air Force.