A contract for the first of up to four KC-46A tankers for Japan has been awarded to Boeing by the USAF.
The US$289m (A$370m) contract is a fixed price amount for a single aircraft for the Japanese Air Self Defence Force, the first international sale of the USAF’s new 767-based tanker. The amount includes non-recurring work to establish engineering and logistics support in Japan, and to incorporate Japanese-specific requirements.
“We are excited to partner with Boeing as we assist Japan in advancing its aerial refuelling capabilities,” Brig Gen Donna Shipton, program executive officer of tankers for the USAF said in a statement.
“This is an important step in strengthening the US-Japan alliance and will enhance our interoperability with both nations flying KC-46s.”
Despite being developed from a commercial airframe and Boeing’s extensive experience in building tankers for the USAF and other countries, the KC-46A program has been dogged with development delays which has seen it miss several key developmental and delivery milestones. This has given rival Airbus a lead in the international market with its A330-200 MRTT which has logged more than 50 sales to eight countries to date, with several options pending.
The USAF has a program of record for 179 KC-46As under its KC-X program, and is currently contracted for 17 aircraft. Japan already operates four KC-767s that, despite their similar 767-heritage, have different mission and air refuelling systems.