The first Boeing KC-46A tanker built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently refueled another KC-46A aircraft in the skies over Washington state. The Japan-bound tanker also successfully received fuel in return. Japan is the KC-46 program’s first non-U.S. customer and is scheduled to receive its first aircraft this year. The Japan KC-46A is capable of refueling U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft. Boeing is assembling the KC-46A aircraft for both the U.S. Air Force and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16% of the KC-46A airframe structure.
“State-of-the-art refueling makes the KC-46A a standout, but this tanker goes well beyond that. 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,” said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan.
“Refueling with the first Japan KC-46A is an important milestone for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. KC-46A is the world’s most advanced air refueling aircraft and has already transferred more than 42 million gallons of fuel to other aircraft globally through its boom and drogue systems,” said Jamie Burgess, KC-46 program manager.
On 23 October 2015, Japan selected the KC-46, with a contract for three tankers expected in 2016. The U.S. 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 U.S. government and Japan. The JASDF reportedly sought to acquire a total of six KC-46s. Work on the first JASDF KC-46 began on 17 September 2019. An order for a third and fourth KC-46 was placed on 30 October 2020. On 8 February 2021, the JASDF conducted its first flight of a KC-46 tanker. A second Japan tanker is already in production.