Oct. 31 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) has delivered its first KC-46A aircraft to Japan, the company said on Sunday, the first delivery of the aerial refueling aircraft to a customer outside the United States, as tensions with China increase prompt Japan to increase its defense spending.
The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) took delivery of the aircraft under a contract first signed in 2017. Boeing, in a statement, called the delivery an “important step” for the US-Japanese cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
The US Air Force and JASDF initially awarded a contract for a KC-46A, but have since exercised options for three more aircraft. Boeing is touting the aircraft as its most state-of-the-art tanker, equipped with advanced sensors and capable of carrying cargo and passengers while it refuels other planes.
However, the KC-46 line used by the US Air Force encountered performance issues, including flaws with an on-board video system.
Sunday’s delivery comes at a tense time for Japan as it seeks to counter China’s military assertion in Asia.
The ruling party in the country – which defied expectations by maintaining a majority in Sunday’s parliamentary elections – has pledged to double defense spending as public sentiment grows wary of China.
Japan’s military strategy centers on the defense of territory along the East China Sea, where it is locked in a dispute with the Chinese government over a cluster of uninhabited islands.
Reporting by Nicholas P. Brown; additional reporting by Mike Stone, Tim Kelly, Ju-min Park, Sakura Murakami and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Lincoln Feast.
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