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Japan signs for KC-46A tanker

27 December 2017
A pair of Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft parked at Paine Field near Seattle. Japan has become the first export customer, having signed for a single aircraft. Source: IHS Markit/Gareth Jennings

Boeing has secured up its first international customer for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, with the announcement that Japan has signed up for a single aircraft.

The Foreign Military Sale (FMS) is valued at USD279 million and was announced by Boeing on 22 December. As well as one KC-46A, the contract covers support.

Japan selected the KC-46A under its KC-X aerial refuelling competition in October 2015. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) is looking to acquire four new tankers to augment its current fleet of four Boeing KC-767J platforms. The sale of four KC-46As to Japan was approved by the US government in September 2016. The total value was given at that time as USD1.9 billion.

While the latest contract announcement did not provide a delivery timeline, the earlier KC-X announcement called for the first aircraft to be received by the JASDF in 2020. With delays to Boeing’s programme to deliver up to 179 KC-46As to the US Air Force (USAF), it is likely that this initial schedule will be pushed back.

The KC-46A is a 767-2C provisioned freighter with a 767-400 flight deck (this flight deck features the Rockwell Collins large format displays of the 787 airliner). Boeing is under contract to deliver 34 of the planned 179 tankers included in the USAF’s own KC-X programme, with the first set to be handed over in the coming weeks. Boeing may yet build hundreds more KC-46As as the USAF looks to replace about 400 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and 59 McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender aircraft through the KC-X and follow-on KC-Y and KC-Z contracts.

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