TOKYO -- The Ministry of Defense is expected to tap Boeing for a new air-to-air refueling plane, with the American aircraft manufacturer having placed the sole bid by Tuesday's deadline.
The KC-46A is capable of refilling U.S. warplanes. The ministry also sees the refuelers being used with other countries' military aircraft under pending security legislation that would let Japan aid allies under attack.
The Air Self-Defense Force has four KC-767 refueling planes at its Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture. Japan calls for procuring three new aerial refuelers in its five-year medium-term defense program ending fiscal 2018. The ministry will request funds for the planes in the fiscal 2016 budget proposal, to be finalized at year-end.
The ministry had initially planned to choose between the KC-46A and Airbus' A330 MRTT, but the European aircraft builder ended up not bidding. In negotiating the contract with Boeing, the ministry will consider refueling capacity and cruising distance.
The refuelers could be used with Japanese Self-Defense Forces planes and U.S. military aircraft stationed in Japan if a remote island of Japan is attacked or an emergency breaks out on the Korean Peninsula.