Boeing has delivered the first of at least four KC-46A Pegasus air-to-air refuellers to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF).
The October 28/29 ferry flight from Seattle in Washington state to Miho Air Base in Japan also marked the first delivery of a KC-46A to an international customer. The aircraft will be based alongside four older KC-767 and two KC-130H tanker. Japan ordered its first two KC-46As in December 2017 and December 2018, and followed that up with an order for two more aircraft in November 2020.
“This is an exciting and historic moment for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Boeing as Japan joins the United States with the world’s most advanced, proven and safe multi-mission combat aerial refueling capability,” Boeing’s KC-46A program manager, James Burgess said in a November 2 release. “We are looking forward to decades of partnership with our Japan customer to ensure aircraft mission effectiveness and enable the success of the JASDF.”
President of Boeing Japan, Will Shaffer added, “Japan’s acquisition of KC-46A tankers marks a significant milestone for both the program and US-Japan cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and plays a critical role in the security alliance between both countries. With its ability to carry cargo and passengers, the KC-46A tanker can also support Japan’s humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.”
The KC-46A Pegasus is based on the commercial Boeing 767-2C freighter. The USAF has received 50 of 179 KC-46As on order under its former KC-X program to replace its oldest KC-135 tankers.
The aircraft is also likely to be considered for the follow-on KC-Y ‘bridge tanker’ contract – an initial RFI for which was released in June – which calls for additional aircraft based on a non-developmental design, although that requirement initially appears to favour a larger aircraft.