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Boeing gets $342m to build another two KC-46A tankers for Japan

KC-135 refueling a KC-46
Illustration: US Air Force photo of a KC-135 refueling a KC-46 aircraft

The US Air Force has awarded Boeing a $342.1 million contract modification for the delivery of the third and fourth KC-46A aircraft to Japan.

Boeing is expected to complete work on the additional two aerial refueling and transport aircraft by June 2023.

The company started work on Japan’s first KC-46A in September 2019 after receiving a contract for the first two airframes in 2017. The US Air Force exercised an option for Japan’s second aircraft in December 2018.

Boeing began developing the KC-46A for the US Air Force in 2011 and delivered the first tanker in January 2019, following a two-year delay. Japan is the program’s first international customer. Deliveries to the JASDF will begin in 2021, according to the company.

The KC-46A is a derivative of the commercial 767-2C. While based on a proven airframe in service as an airliner and freighter, the KC-46A has been plagued by a multitude of issues ranging from integrated fuel systems and refueling booms to its remote vision system which is crucial for safe air-to-air refueling in all lighting conditions.