The first of four Boeing KC-46A air-to-air tankers for the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) made its maiden flight at Seattle on February 8.
The Japanese aircraft is essentially identical to those being acquired by the USAF. The KC-46A Pegasus is a development of the Boeing 767-2C freighter, and 179 aircraft are required by the USAF under the KC-X program to replace some of the oldest KC-135 Stratotankers in the USAF fleet.
Japan selected the KC-46A in December 2017 to replace its older KC-767 tankers in service, and the four aircraft have been ordered in two lots of two aircraft each.
“Boeing’s KC-46 and its robust defensive systems will play an invaluable role in the security alliance between our two countries,” president of Boeing Japan, Will Shaffer said in a company release “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.”
A number of countries in the Indo-Pacific have upgraded their tanker fleets in recent years, including Australia (KC-30A), South Korea, Singapore, and India (all A330 MRTT).