Boeing has made the first international delivery of its KC-46A aerial refuelling tanker to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF).

The delivery is part of a $279m contract awarded to the company via the US foreign military sale route in December 2017.

Boeing KC-46 Program vice-president and programme manager James Burgess said: “This is an exciting and historic moment for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Boeing as Japan joins the United States with the world’s most advanced, proven and safe multi-mission combat aerial refuelling capability.

“We are looking forward to decades of partnership with our Japan customer to ensure aircraft mission effectiveness and enable the success of the JASDF.”

The JASDF KC-46A aerial refuelling aircraft can also refuel the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps aircraft.

So far, the aircraft has conducted some 5,000 sorties and transferred more than 50 million pounds of fuel to other aircraft.

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By GlobalData

In December 2018, the USAF and JASDF exercised an option for a second JASDF KC-46A with Boeing.

Options for the third and fourth aircraft were exercised in October last year.

Boeing Japan president Will Shaffer said: “Japan’s acquisition of KC-46A tankers marks a significant milestone for both the program and US-Japan cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and plays a critical role in the security alliance between both countries.

“With its ability to carry cargo and passengers, the KC-46A tanker can also support Japan’s humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.”

The KC-46A aircraft is being produced on the company’s Everett 767-production line in Washington for the USAF, JASDF and other overseas customers.

Currently, Boeing is assembling the JASDF’s second KC-46A.

The company’s Japanese partners are supporting the contract by manufacturing 16% of the airframe structure of the KC-46A jets.