Israel has requested that the US increase deliveries of Boeing KC-46 tankers over the next two years, doubling the number from two to four by 2024.
The news came from an unnamed insider source within the Israeli Defense Ministry, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.
The US State Department approved the sale of eight KC-46 air refueling aircraft to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in March 2020. The new tankers would replace the IAF’s ageing fleet of modified Boeing 707 tankers.
As per agreement, two KC-46s had to be delivered to Israel by 2023. According to the information obtained by The Jerusalem Post, IAF requested two tankers to be delivered “immediately”, with a further two to be delivered by 2023.
The same source commented that negotiations are still ongoing, although the Israeli Ministry of Defense hopes the issue will soon be resolved.
The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus II has been a source of controversy in recent years, as the aircraft demonstrated insufficient capability and a host of problems during its entry into service. The aircraft is based on the Boeing 767 wide-body airliner and has been heavily modified to perform aerial refueling of military aircraft as well as fulfilling several other roles.
Officially introduced into the US Air Force in 2019, the KC-46 was allowed to perform limited refueling during the summer of 2021, following an extensive testing program that led to the discovery of hundreds of critical design flaws.
The program contributed significantly to financial problems experienced by Boeing in 2019 and 2020, as the USAF has refused the deliveries of the aircraft on two separate occasions, withholding payment until some of the problems are resolved.
Despite the flaws, numerous foreign countries have expressed an interest in purchasing the KC-46. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force has placed a bid for four tankers, while Israel has ordered eight. India, Canada, Poland, and South Korea have evaluated the KC-46 for their own tanker programs, but opted for Airbus A330 MRTT instead