The KC-46A Pegasus was selected as the next Air Self-Defense Force refueling aircraft because it can refuel U.S. fighter planes heading to combat zones in the event of a Japan-U.S. joint military operation, which could be made possible by the new security legislation under deliberation in the Diet.
The highly contentious bills would remove Japan’s long-held ban on the exercise of the right to collective self-defense and greatly expand the overseas role of the SDF.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito plan to ram the package of bills through the Upper House on Sept. 17 at the earliest.
Boeing was the only aircraft manufacturer to make a pitch in the ministry’s public bidding for the next ASDF refueling aircraft. Airbus Group considered entering the bidding, which ended Sept. 8, but withdrew at the last minute.
The ministry will enter price negotiations with Boeing and determine the number of the planes to be delivered. It will earmark the cost for the aircraft purchase in its fiscal 2016 budget.
The ASDF currently operates four Boeing KC-767 air tankers. The KC-46A was developed from the KC-767 with a slightly longer length of 50.4 meters.
Based on the Medium Term Defense Program adopted in December 2013, the ministry plans to procure three new aerial refueling and transport aircraft by the end of fiscal 2018.
The U.S. Air Force's new KC-46A aerial refueling tanker made by Boeing Co. in flight.