US approves possible sale of KC-46 tankers

Boeing's tanker aircraft will replace the IAF's current refuelers, which are nearing 60 years old.

Boeing's KC-46 aerial refueling tanker (photo credit: BOEING)
Boeing's KC-46 aerial refueling tanker
(photo credit: BOEING)
The US State Department approved a possible sale of up to eight Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft and related equipment to Israel for an estimated cost of $2.4 billion, the State Department’s Bureau of Political Military Affairs announced. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress about this possible sale.
According to the Tuesday statement, the formal notice of the potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded. Congress will have 15 days to review the request before moving ahead with negotiations and implementation.
The KC-46 tankers, which would replace Israel’s Ram (Boeing 707) tanker aircraft, which are required for long-range missions and are nearing the age of 60, would reach Israel by late 2023.
“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the State Department’s Bureau of Political Military Affairs said in a statement. “This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives.”
“The proposed sale further supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to US assets within the region, potentially freeing US assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” the State Department added. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israel’s national security posture as a key US ally. Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
Israel’s fleet of Ram planes, the number of which remains confidential, are former civilian aircraft adapted for military uses such as aerial refueling for fighter jets and transport aircrafts.
The IAF had been considering the KC-46 as well as buying used Boeing 767 commercial aircrafts and converting them for airborne refueling of combat planes.
Like other tankers, the KC-46 has a three-man crew, two pilots and a boomer. But unlike the current planes flown by Israel and many other nations, the boomer sits right behind the cockpit and has digital displays to aid him in maneuvering the boom to the receiving plane. The offload, rate and boom limits are also automatically set.
With a range of 11,830 km. with the capacity to unload some 207,000 pounds of fuel, the KC-46 can refuel over 64 different types of aircraft.
The KC-46 can refuel jets with 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute by its fly-by-wire 55-foot refueling boom. It also can have wing air refueling pods allowing three jets to be refueled at once within three to four minutes. One F-15i can take some 15,000 pounds of fuel in total.
All fuel tanks in the KC-46, which is purposely built for combat close to the battlefield, are fully inerted and are configured with ballistic armor. The plane also has IR countermeasures, RF warnings, threat avoidance systems and NVIS lighting (Night Vision Imaging System), allowing the plane to land in complete darkness, giving the massive plane full covert capabilities.
Israel is also able to add indigenous electronic warfare countermeasure systems.
With a need to keep ahead of increased threats in the Middle East, the IAF is set to place orders on several new aircrafts to upgrade its aging squadrons, including fighter jets and transport helicopters.