Israeli Aircraft Industries says that there is growing interest in the conversion of Boeing 767-300ER airliners into aerial refueling tankers.

The company’s Bedek division has five customers for the conversion program and the first aircraft should enter service in 2017. Brazil is known to be one of those, having ordered two aircraft to replace the Boeing 707-based KC-137s the country’s air arm operated until October 2013.

Last August, IAI began flight testing an ex-American Airlines 767-300ER with an IAI-developed fly-by-wire refueling boom system, and it plans to carry out a series of trials with the boom during 2016. In order to fit the boom it has modified the rear fuselage with a recess, eliminating concerns about damaging the boom system in the event of a tail strike on the longer-fuselage version of the widebody Boeing.

“With Boeing producing the KC-46, customers who buy a tanker based on the 767 know that support will be available for their aircraft for the next 30-40 years,” said Yosi Melamed, general manager for IAI Bedek Aviation Group.

IAI multi-role tanker transport 767s are given a major overhaul, which also includes new engines and APU, a main passenger deck cargo door, new avionics, and mission systems that enable the refueling operation to be conducted from the flight deck.

Melamed said he was hopeful that the company could capture one-third of the market in the coming years and he was unconcerned about the potential impact of surplus KC-135s coming onto the market. “With four engines, operating the KC-135 requires a large investment. We have a saying in Israel, ‘what was, was’: the future is the 767 now.”

So far the company has delivered one 767-200 tanker conversion to the Colombian Air Force, which uses the type to support its Kfir fighters and A-37 Dragonfly ground attack aircraft. The Colombian 767 was successfully used to deploy Kfirs to Nellis AFB, Nevada, in 2012 for Exercise Red Flag.