Japan Receives the First KC-46A Refuelling Tanker from Boeing

Japan Receives the First KC-46A Refuelling Tanker from Boeing
Japan Receives the First KC-46A Refuelling Tanker from Boeing

The first of four KC-46A tankers have been delivered to the Japan Air Self-Defence Force, marking the program’s first delivery to a client outside the United States. The first delivery catches the eye as it seeks to confront China’s military ambitions in Asia. The aircraft, bearing the serial number 14-3611 and the call sign REACH 46, took off from Boeing’s facilities in Seattle, Washington, on Thursday afternoon local time.


In September 2016, Japan gained authorisation from the US State Department to purchase four KC-46s. In December 2017, the US Air Force and the Japanese Air Self-Defence Force granted Boeing a Foreign Military Sale contract for this first tanker. In December 2018, they exercised a second option. The third and fourth JASDF KC-46A options were exercised in October 2020 under a $342 million deal.

Japan Receives the First KC-46A Refuelling Tanker from Boeing

JASDF will receive four KC-46As outfitted with Raytheon Technologies’ ALR-69A Radar Warning Receiver and Raytheon’s Miniaturized Airborne GPS Receiver (MAGR) 2000 (2K) to provide GPS Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) capability, as well as Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM). Boeing has said that its Japanese partners construct 16 per cent of the KC-46A airframe.

Nonetheless, the US Air Force’s KC-46 series has had performance issues, including its on-board video system flaws.

Japan will form a new squadron for its KC-46As at Miho Air Base to operate alongside its existing tanker fleet comprised of four KC-767 and two KC-130H tankers assigned to 404 Hikotai at Komaki. The new tankers will help refuel the JASDF’s fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35A and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, Mitsubishi F-15 and F-2 fighters, and Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt rotors.