WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has given the green light for Israel to buy eight KC-46 aerial-refueling tankers at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion.
If a contract is solidified, Israel would become the second international customer for the Boeing tanker, which was first delivered to the U.S. Air Force last year.
Israel has requested to buy up to eight KC-46s, 17 PW4062 engines for those aircraft, and a suite of communications gear, transponders, spare parts, support equipment and contractor support necessary to establish a maintenance enterprise and perform work on the aircraft, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency news release.
According to a report by the Israel-based Channel 12 news outlet, cited by The Times of Israel in June, Israel plans to use the military aid funding that it receives from the United States to pay for the aircraft. The country also wants to expedite the delivery of its first tankers and may ask the U.S. Air Force if it can take two of its production slots, according to Breaking Defense.
Israel currently uses Boeing 707s, which have been modified by Israel Aerospace Industries, for aerial refueling.
The March 3 announcement by the DSCA is only a notification to Congress of a potential sale. Congress has the ability to block foreign military sales but is unlikely to do so for a sale to Israel, a close ally. If the sale is allowed to move forward, Israel will move into contract negotiations with KC-46 manufacturer Boeing. The estimated price of the deal and equipment associated with the sale can shift during this process.
“The proposed sale further supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” DSCA stated in its release..
“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 U.S. ally. Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.”
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.