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US approves $2.4 billion sale to Israel of 8 Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft

Israel currently relies on an aging fleet of heavily modified Boeing 707s

The U.S. State Department approved the sale of up to eight Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft and associated equipment and services to Israel at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

Israel has requested to buy up to eight KC-46 aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft; up to 17 Pratt & Whitney PW4062 turbofan engines to include a spare; and up to 18 MAGR 2K-GPS SAASM navigation systems, the Tuesday, March 3 DSCA release said.

Also included are AN/ARC-210 U/VHF radios, APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe transponders, spare and repair parts, maintenance, training and other related support.

The principal contractors are Boeing for the aircraft and Raytheon for the MAGR 2K systems.

“The proposed sale further supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” the DSCA said. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies.”

Citing Channel 12, the Times of Israel in June reported that Israel intends buy the aircraft using its annual U.S. defense aid. Breaking Defense reported in December that Israel will ask the U.S Air Force to give up two of its Boeing KC-46A production slots to expedite delivery of the aircraft, an apparent confirmation of an Israel Defense report from June that said Israel wanted two KC-46As with an option for six more.

Based on Boeing’s 767 jetliner, the KC-46 Pegasus is a wide-body, multi-mission aircraft capable of transporting fuel, cargo, passengers and medical patients that was selected by the U.S. Air Force in 2011 to replace the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. The first aircraft of 179 in the $32 billion program was accepted by the U.S. Air Force in January 2019 after years of delays and cost overruns, but the aircraft is still beset with problems and is not operational.

The KC-46 can carry some 95,000 kg (210,000 pounds) of fuel and boasts a range of 11,800 km (6,385 nautical miles).

The Israeli Air Force has relied for decades on modified Boeing 707s for its midair refueling needs. While the aircraft has extended the IAF’s continuous flight range to some 10,000 km, Israel’s youngest 707 is nearly 40 years old.

Israeli Aerospace Industries signed a multi-billion dollar agreement with Boeing in 2018.

Israeli airstrikes have hit dozens of Iran-linked targets in Syria in recent years and at least one in Iraq. The U.S. has said it has supported Israeli strikes in Syria.

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