Boeing starts work on Japan's next-generation aerial tanker
Boeing has begun construction of Japan's first KC-46A Pegasus next-generation air tanker. On September 13, 2019, at the company's 767 production facility in Everett, WA, the assembly team laid down an 82.4-ft (25-m) wing spar as the first step in assembling the widebody, multirole tanker.
Derived from Boeing's commercial 767-2C airliner, the KC-46A is slated to go into service with the US Air Force later this year. In December 2017, Boeing was awarded a Foreign Military Sale contract, allowing it to sell one of the tankers to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) with a possible option of delivering a total of six.
The KC-46A is no lightweight. Measuring 166 ft (50.5 m) long with a takeoff weight of 415,000 lb (188,241 kg), it has a fuel capacity of 212,299 lb (96,265 kg). Despite this, its two Pratt & Whitney PW 4062 engines generating 62,000 lb of thrust give it a maximum airspeed of Mach 0.86 (650 mph, 1,046 km/h).
The configuration being built for Japan makes it compatible with refueling all US Air Force, US Navy, and JASDF aircraft, allowing the three air arms to operate with one another interchangeably. In addition, the tanker can also carry cargo or passengers, has an armored cockpit, is hardened against an EMP attack, and carries a suite of defensive sensors and.countermeasures.
According to Boeing, the KC-46A aircraft will be constructed in Everett, then moved to the site's Modification Center for fitting out before going to Boeing Field in Seattle for flight testing. The first delivery to the JASDF is scheduled for 2021.
"This is an exciting day for the program and we look forward to building and delivering these multi-role tankers to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force," says Jamie Burgess, Boeing vice president, and KC-46 program manager. "From the enhanced flight deck to the modernized boom, this tanker will provide unmatched capabilities for Japan."