The first Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft destined for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has completed its maiden flight.

The first flight marks a major milestone in the delivery programme as the aircraft will now move into the certification phase of development.

KC-46 programme manager Jamie Burgess 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 will receive a total of four KC-46 tankers, the first of which is expected to be delivered this year. Notably, Japan is the KC-46 programme’s first international customer.

The Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aircraft is designed as a multirole tanker capable of refuelling all US, allied and coalition military aircraft. The aircraft can carry passengers, cargo and patients, as well as operate safely in medium-threat environments.

It has a maximum take-off weight of 415,000lb and can travel at a maximum speed of 650mph.

Boeing Japan president Will Shaffer said: “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.”

The company is assembling KC-46A aircraft for US Air Force (USAF) and Japan at its 767 production line in Everett, Washington, US.

Last month, Boeing received two multi-billion KC-46 tanker contracts for the USAF. The contracts increased the total number of aircraft ordered by the USAF to 94.