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Japan’s first KC-46 tanker completes maiden flight

First JASDF KC-46A in flight
JASDF KC-46A in flight. Photo: Boeing

The first KC-46 tanker Boeing built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) completed its maiden flight on February 8, the company has revealed.

Boeing said the flight marked an important milestone as the aircraft now transitions into the certification phase of development.

As the first international customer for Boeing’s KC-46 program, Japan is scheduled to receive its first airframe this year. The country has so far ordered four refuelers under contracts awarded to Being between 2017 and October 2020.

“This is an exciting milestone for the JASDF and Boeing,” said Jamie Burgess, KC-46 program manager. “Japan is getting closer to receiving the most advanced air refueling tanker in the world.”

“Boeing’s KC-46 and its robust defensive systems will play an invaluable role in the security alliance between our two countries,” said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. “This tanker’s ability to carry cargo and passengers also makes it a critical tool to support humanitarian relief efforts across the Pacific region and beyond.”

The KC-46 refueling certification encompasses US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft.

Boeing is assembling KC-46A aircraft for both the US Air Force and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington.

In addition to the KC-46A program, Boeing is also working with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) on the upgrade of Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s F-15J Eagle interceptor fleet.