JERUSALEM — Boeing will soon sign a $927 million contract to deliver four KC-46A aerial refuelers to the Israeli military, the Israeli Defense Ministry and Boeing announced this week.
The ministry agreed to purchase the planes in January, following years of delays in finalizing a contract that stemmed from budgeting issues and local elections. The aircraft, which will arrive in 2025 and 2026, are coming from Boeing’s Lot 8 production.
In a statement, Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked the U.S. Defense Department for approving the agreement. “I began promoting this agreement, which includes the expedited implementation of U.S. FMF [foreign military financing], two years ago, in coordination with the Ministries of Finance and Justice. This essential initiative will be launched after the Israel Ministry of Defense will sign the agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense,” he said.
He added that the KC-46A tankers are part of a procurement effort that will see Israel buy F-35 fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and advanced munition to “enable the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to face security challenges near and far. This is yet another testament to the powerful alliance and strategic ties between the defense establishments and governments of Israel and the United States.”
A statement from Boeing confirmed parties finalized the contract for the KC-46A, of which the American company has sold 179 total, primarily to the United States. Japan is the only other country operating the aircraft type.
Previous reports in Israeli media indicated the country wanted an earlier delivery of the plane amid concerns about its aging fleet of Boing 707 tankers and tension with Iran. The U.S. is currently renegotiating a deal with Iran that set a limit on Tehran’s nuclear production. On Aug. 31, members of the Israel Defense and Security Forum, comprised of senior officers from Israeli armed services, security and law enforcement agencies, called on the White House not to sign onto a deal. Gantz was also in the U.S. at the end of August.
Funding for the KC-46A aircraft will come from the $3.3 billion in security assistance that Israel received as part of a foreign military financing agreement with the U.S. The current contract gives Israel the ability to purchase four more of the planes after the initial four.
“As part of the signed contract, Boeing will also provide support services for the refuelers, maintenance and repairs, logistics and other assistance to adapt the planes to Israel’s needs, in a way that will ensure full readiness to carry out its missions for the Israeli Air Force,” Boeing said in its statement.
The KC-46As will be equipped “with the most advanced system in the world for aerial refueling alongside advanced defense systems and more,” Boeing said.
The company will manufacture the planes in Seattle, Washington.
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.