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Japan’s first KC-46 flies maiden refueling test

KC-46 refueling operations
A JASDF KC-46A refueling its USAF counterpart during recent tests. Photo: Boeing

The first KC-46A tanker Boeing built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently refueled another KC-46A aircraft in the skies over Washington state.

The Japan-bound tanker also successfully received fuel in return during the test, Boeing said. The refueling test followed the maiden flight of the aircraft from February this year.

“Refueling with the first Japan KC-46A is an important milestone for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force,” said Jamie Burgess, KC-46 program manager.

Japan is the KC-46 program’s first non-US customer and is scheduled to receive its first aircraft this year.

“State-of-the-art refueling makes the KC-46A a standout, but this tanker goes well beyond that,” said Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan. “The ability to carry cargo and passengers while maintaining tactical situational awareness makes the aircraft a critical tool in the security alliance between the US and Japan.”

The Japan KC-46A is capable of refueling US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft.

The US Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A tanker in December 2017. In October 2020, Japan ordered another two tankers, bringing the total number of aircraft on order to four.

The agreement was completed through the Foreign Military Sale process between the US government and Japan. A second Japan tanker is already in production.

Boeing is assembling the KC-46A aircraft for both the US Air Force and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16% of the KC-46A airframe structure.