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Boeing KC-46A Japan Tanker Completes ‘Milestone’ Refueling Flight

A Boeing KC-46A tanker built for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) recently completed the refueling of another KC-46A in-flight, the company announced. The Japan-bound tanker was also, in return, refueled.

KC-46 program manager Jamie Burgess called the refueling an “important milestone” for the JASDF.

“KC-46A is the world’s most advanced air refueling aircraft and has already transferred more than 42 million gallons of fuel to other aircraft globally through its boom and drogue systems,” Burgess remarked.

Meanwhile, Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan, called the state-of-the-art refueling demonstration done by the KC-46A a “standout.”

“The ability to carry cargo and passengers while maintaining tactical situational awareness makes the aircraft a critical tool in the security alliance between the U.S. and Japan,” he said.

The Boeing KC-46A

The KC-46A tanker is an aerial refueling system and transport plane developed from the company’s 767 airliner design. The tanker model won the US Air Force’s KC-X tanker competition to replace older Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. Used to refuel US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft, the first unit was delivered in January 2019.

Japan is the KC-46 program’s first non-US customer and is expected to receive its first unit this year.

The USAF awarded Boeing a contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A in December 2017, under the Foreign Military Sale process between the US and Japan.

The KC-46A is manned by three crew with 15 seats for additional operational and aircrew. It can accommodate up to 114 passengers, 29,500 kg (32.5 ton) of payload, and has a total length of 165 ft 6 in (50.5 m). The aircraft also has a wingspan of 157 ft 8 in (48.1 m) and a fuel capacity of 31,220 US gal (118,200 L).

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