Japan took delivery of its first of four KC-767 tankers from Boeing on 20 February, ending a delay encountered during flight testing of the adapted widebody airliner, which is also on order for the Italian air force.
Pictured alongside Tokyo’s second aircraft prior to its delivery and arriving at Japan's Gifu air base following a 14h transit flight, the air force’s lead tanker will now enter a period of operational and technical evaluation prior to its clearance for frontline duties, says Michael Marshall, senior manager international business development for Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems business unit. Japan’s second aircraft will be handed over by the end of the first quarter, with its remaining examples to follow in 2009 and 2010, he says.
Speaking at the Singapore air show, Marshall revealed that Boeing will also deliver Italy’s first of four KC-767s by the end of the second quarter of this year. The handover of the new tankers for both customers had been delayed after buffet problems were encountered during flight trials involving Italy’s first example.
The US Air Force’s KC-X tanker contest could, meanwhile, be close to its delayed conclusion, with a Defense Acquisition Board review anticipated on 23 February and a platform selection to potentially be announced on 29 February. Boeing’s KC-767 faces competition from the Northrop Grumman/EADS North America KC-30, a military derivative of the Airbus A330.