Boeing Delivers First KC-46 To Japan

USAF Boeing KC-46A refuels an A-10.
Credit: Robert Sullivan

Boeing delivered the first KC-46A refueling tanker to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force on Oct. 28, marking the first international delivery for the program.

Japan has ordered four of the tankers, which will join its existing refueling fleet of two KC-130Hs and two Boeing KC-767s. The country placed the first order in 2017, making it the first international customer for the tanker. It later exercised an option for the second aircraft in 2018 and for the third and fourth in October 2020. The tankers are expected to be delivered by June 2023.

“Japan’s acquisition of KC-46A tankers marks a significant milestone for both the program and U.S.-Japan cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and plays a critical role in the security alliance between both countries,” said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan, in an announcement. “With its ability to carry cargo and passengers, the KC-46A tanker can also support Japan’s humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.”

Boeing is assembling the second tanker for Japan at its Everett, Washington, facility. The company’s partners in Japan produce 16% of the aircraft’s airframe structure, the announcement said.

In addition to Japan, Israel signed a letter of offer and acceptance for two KC-46s in February 2021. The country expects to buy eight of the tankers, which will be outfitted with unique systems. They are expected to be delivered by 2025.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.