Boeing has confirmed that it has begun assembly on Japan’s first next-generation KC-46 tanker.
Boeing was awarded the Foreign Military Sale contract for the aircraft (and logistics services) in 2017, with the US Air Force exercising an option for Japan’s second aircraft in December last year.
“This is an exciting day for the program, and we look forward to building and delivering these multi-role tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF),” said Jamie Burgess, Boeing vice president and KC-46 program manager.
“From the enhanced flight deck to the modernized boom, this tanker will provide unmatched capabilities for Japan.”
The assembly, for both of the ordered aircraft, is taking place at Boeing’s 767 production line in Everett, with workers installing the tanker’s unique military systems at the site’s Modification Center.
The jets are then flight tested at Boeing Field prior to delivery.
Development began for the KC-46A for the US Air Force in 2011, with the first tanker delivered earlier in 2019, with Japan the first international customer of the program, with the JASDF’s first delivery due in 2021.
The KC-46 will be a force multiplier in the US-Japanese defence alliance, certified to refuel all US Air Force, US Navy and JASDF aircraft safely and efficiently.
Built to carry passengers, cargo and patients, it will be easier to maintain than previous tankers, improving reliability and lowering life-cycle costs.
The KC-46A is a derivative of the commercial 767-2C, a proven airframe in service as an airliner and freighter.