Israel Signs for Boeing KC-46 Tankers

 - February 24, 2021, 10:59 AM
An artist’s impression shows what an Israeli KC-46 might look like in IAF service. (Photo: Israeli MOD)

Israel’s Ministry of Defence (IMOD) has signed a Letter of Acceptance covering the purchase of two Boeing KC-46 tanker/transports, becoming the type's second export customer after Japan. The announcement follows recent parliamentary approval for the acquisition of a number of new aircraft for the Israeli Air Force (IAF).

In the same announcement, the IMOD confirmed that it is now pursuing the purchase of further Lockheed Martin F-35I Adir fighters—in addition to the 50 it has currently ordered—to equip a third squadron, and also a heavylift helicopter to replace the aging Sikorsky CH-53-2000 Yas’ur. The Boeing CH-47 and Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion are the prime contenders for the latter requirement. There was no mention of the Boeing F-15EX fighter, in which Israel is also believed to have an interest.

Israel has a requirement for eight KC-46s to replace its elderly Boeing KC-707 Re’em tankers, the first of which was converted by IAI’s Bedek Aviation in the 1970s. The IAF is understood to currently have nine in service. The KC-46 was selected in the face of competition from the Airbus A330 MRTT and IAI Bedek conversions of former airliner Boeing 767s. According to Israeli media, notably the business publication Globes, Boeing blocked the 767 bid to support its KC-46 proposal.

State Department approval for the sale of up to eight KC-46s and one spare Pratt & Whitney PW4062 engine was given on March 3 last year, with an estimated value of $2.4 billion. The aircraft are likely to feature a significant Israeli equipment content. While Israel had requested early deliveries—possibly diverted from U.S. Air Force production slots—no timescale has been announced for the hand-over of the first two.