First KC-46A tanker for Japan takes flight

The first of four Boeing KC-46A tankers for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) completed its maiden flight from the company’s production facility in Everett, Washington, on February 8.

Having completed its inaugural flight, Japan’s first KC-46A – serial 14-3611 – will now transition into the certification phase of development before it is handed over to the JASDF later this year. This successful flight highlighted an important milestone in Boeing’s KC-46 programme, as it marked the first time that a KC-46A destined to serve with an international customer had taken to the skies.

KC-46A [Boeing/Marian Lockhart]
The first of four Boeing KC-46A tankers for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force took to the skies for the first time on February 8, 2021. Boeing/Marian Lockhart

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

Japan became the first export customer of the KC-46 in December 2017, when the US Air Force (USAF) awarded Boeing a US$279m contract to produce and deliver the initial example to the JASDF. The nation has purchased four examples of the tanker in total, which were sourced through the US’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process and have now all been contracted for production with Boeing.

Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan, added: “Boeing’s KC-46 and its robust defensive systems will play an invaluable role in the security alliance between our two countries. 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.”