A Boeing [BA] KC-46A tanker for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) had its maiden flight on Feb. 8, Boeing said.
The aircraft is to be delivered to JASDF later this year and is one of four tankers for JASDF announced under a $1.9 billion deal approved under the Foreign Military Sales program by the State Department and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency in a notice to Congress in September 2016.
The refuelers are to be equipped with the Raytheon [RTX] 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, and Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system.
Will Shaffer, president of Boeing Japan, said in a Feb. 9 statement that the KC-46 “and its robust defensive systems will play an invaluable role in the security alliance between our two countries.”
The KC-46’s “ability to carry cargo and passengers also makes it a critical tool to support humanitarian relief efforts across the Pacific region and beyond,” he said.
Japan is the first international customer for the KC-46. Boeing has delivered 44 KC-46s to the U.S. Air Force thus far to replace the service’s aging KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10s.
The Air Force awarded Boeing a $279 million contract for the JASDF’s first KC-46A tanker in December 2017.
Boeing is building all KC-46A aircraft on the company’s 767 production line in Everett, Wash. Boeing said that its Japanese partners produce 16 percent of the KC-46’s airframe.
Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the commander of Air Mobility Command (AMC), said this month that the Air Force has resolved two Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) Category I deficiencies for the KC-46A (Defense Daily, Feb. 1).
Van Ovost said that she remains especially concerned with the two Category I deficiencies with the aircraft’s Remote Vision System (RVS) and one with the telescopic boom, as those shortcomings could delay full operational capability for the KC-46A unless they are fixed with the release of RVS 2.0 and the new boom telescope actuator device.
Last year, the Air Force identified six Category I–critical–deficiencies with the KC-46A: two Category I performance deficiencies with the RVS; a performance deficiency with the boom telescope actuator for connecting the refueling boom with slower aircraft, such as the A-10; a product quality deficiency report (PQDR) related to fuel manifold leaks; a PQDR related to the APU drain mast; and a PQDR related to APU duct clamp cracks (Defense Daily, Oct. 27).
Last June, the Air Force said it had pushed back KC-46’s timeline for Initial Operational Test & Evaluation, as well as delaying a full-rate production for the program until at least fiscal year 2024 (Defense Daily, June 10). Van Ovost said that RVS 2.0 and a fix for the boom telescope actuator will be in place by fiscal year 2024 and that AMC still plans to have 179 KC-46s in the inventory by 2029 to supplement the 300 platinum anniversary Boeing KC-135s that will still be in operation.