The first Boeing KC-46A tanker destined for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has conducted a refuelling flight with another KC-46A aircraft.

Carried out in the skies over the US state of Washington, the tanker gave and received fuel.

KC-46 programme manager Jamie Burgess said: “Refuelling with the first Japan KC-46A is an important milestone for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

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

Japan is the KC-46 programme’s first non-US or international customer. Boeing expects to deliver the Japan-bound aircraft this year.

In December 2017, the USAF awarded Boeing a $279m contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A tanker. This contract was awarded under the US foreign military sale (FMS) route.

A second Japan tanker is already in production.

KC-46A aircraft is being assembled by Boeing for both the US Air Force (USAF) and Japan on its 767-production line in Washington.

The company’s Japanese partners manufacture 16% of the airframe structure of the KC-46As.

The KC-46A aerial refuelling aircraft can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft that are compatible with international aerial refuelling procedures.

It is capable of refuelling the USAF, US Navy, US Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft.

Boeing Japan president Will Shaffer said: “State-of-the-art refuelling makes the KC-46A a standout, but this tanker goes well beyond that.

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