Asia Defense

US Clears $1.9 Billion Sale of KC-46A Tanker Aircraft to Japan

The U.S. State Department approved the sale on September 21.

US Clears $1.9 Billion Sale of KC-46A Tanker Aircraft to Japan
Credit: Boeing

The U.S. State Department approved a possible $ 1.9 billion sale of four KC-46A aerial refueling aircraft and associated equipment under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Foreign Military Sales program, according to a September 21 press release by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA)–the Pentagon’s lead agency responsible for arms sales to allies and partner nations. The sale is still subject to approval by the United States Congress and no final contract has been signed.

According to the DSCA statement, Japan requested “the sale of four KC-46A aerial refueling aircraft. Each aircraft is powered by two Pratt &Whitney Model 4062 (PW4062) Turbofan engines. The sale includes one additional spare PW4062 engine.” The cost of the aircraft and engines alone is estimated at $ 1.5 billion.  Furthermore, according to the press release:

Each aircraft will be delivered with GPS capability and defensive systems installed plus spares, to include: Raytheon’s ALR-69A Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), Raytheon’s Miniaturized Airborne GPS Receiver (MAGR) 2000 (2K) to provide GPS Selective Availability AntiSpoofing Module SAASM capability, and Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-24(V) Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) system. 

There are no offset agreements proposed in connection with the aircraft sale.

The KC-46A Pegasus is a multirole tanker aircraft developed by Boeing from its KC-767 civilian jetliner. In 2011, the United States Air Force (USAF) selected the KC-46A in the so-called KC-X tanker competition to replace older aerial refueling aircraft in service with the USAF.  “The aircraft can detect, avoid, defeat and survive threats using multiple layers of protection, which will enable it to operate safely in medium-threat environments,” according to the Boeing website. The first 18 KC-46A are slated to join the USAF by the middle of next year.

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The Japan Air-Self Defense Force (JASDF) selected the KC-46A in late 2015 in order to have sufficient capability to refuel its burgeoning new fleet of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft–a hybrid between a conventional helicopter and turboprop plane—and likely to be deployed in the defense of remote Japanese-held islands. The JASDF expects to receive 17 V-22 Osprey military transport aircraft in the coming years.

“The proposed sale increases Japan’s capability to participate in Pacific region security operations and improves Japan’s national security posture as a key U.S. ally. This proposed sale will provide Japan a needed capability to a close ally and support U.S. security interests in the region,” DSCA said.

As The Diplomat reported last month, Japan’s Defense Ministry put in a request for a 5.168 trillion yen (approximately $50 billion) Fiscal Year 2017 defense budget. If approved by the legislative branch, it would constitute the fifth consecutive rise in Japanese defense spending since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assumed office in December 2012.