Japan Signs on for Second Boeing KC-46 Military Tanker and Transport Aircraft

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program also has completed its planned Phase II receiver certification flight testing.

Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus tanker refuels an F-15E aircraft during Phase II receiver certification testing out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. A Boeing/U.S. Air Force team completed receiver certification with F-16, KC-135, C-17, A-10, KC-46, B-52, F/A-18 and F-15E aircraft. (Photo: Boeing)

Japan officials continue to boost the country’s defenses against threats, exercising the option to add a second Boeing KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft, based on the Boeing 767 commercial passenger jet, to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s fleet of aircraft.

The Japan Ministry of Defense is acquiring its second Boeing (NYSE:BA) KC-46 tanker through the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) process with the U.S. Air Force.

“Japan is our first KC-46 international partner and we look forward to delivering this highly capable, multi-role tanker to the JASDF,” says John Suding, Boeing Global Sales and Marketing Asia regional executive. “The KC-46 will be much easier to maintain than previous tankers, improving reliability and lowering life-cycle costs. It will be a valuable addition to Japan’s air mobility fleet for decades to come.”

Boeing won the initial FMS contract for Japan’s first KC-46 aircraft and miscellaneous logistics services in December 2017, following the Japan Ministry of Defense’s KC-X aerial refueling competition.

“Japan’s new tankers will not only enhance interoperability with the U.S. Air Force, but also play an important role in the security partnership between our two countries,” says U.S. Air Force KC-46 System Program Manager Col. John Newberry.

The KC-46 is a multirole tanker designed to refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo, and patients.

Boeing began developing the KC-46A Pegasus tanker for the U.S. Air Force in 2011 and is assembling the 767-derivative aircraft at its Everett, Wash., facility. First flight of the fully provisioned KC-46 tanker took place in September 2015.

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program also has completed its planned Phase II receiver certification flight testing following three weeks of flights with F-15E aircraft out of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Since April 2018, a joint Boeing and Air Force team has also completed testing with KC-135, C-17, A-10, KC-46, B-52, F-16, and F/A-18 aircraft.

“This accomplishment is a tribute to the Boeing/U.S. Air Force team and helps set the stage for the start of Initial Operational Test & Evaluation testing next year,” says Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. “We are seeing great progress in both test and production and expect the positive momentum to continue as we begin delivering aircraft.”

During the certification flight tests, KC-46 and receiver aircraft flew at different airspeeds, altitudes, and configurations to ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope of each receiver. Now, the Air Force and the Aerial Refueling Certification Agency will review all test data and paperwork before ultimately “certifying” each aircraft.

“The Air Force crews were with us every step of the way during this critical testing,” said Jake Kwasnik, KC-46 test program manager. Test flights were conducted out of Boeing Field and also at Edwards and Minot Air Force bases, officials say.

Six test aircraft have now completed more than 3,700 flight hours and supplied more than four million pounds of fuel in flight to receiver aircraft.

Phase III receiver certification testing will include additional receiver aircraft and will be conducted by the Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in 2019.

The KC-46, derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe, is built in the company’s Everett, Wash., facility. Boeing is currently on contract for the first 52 of an expected 179 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

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