Israel to significantly boost aerial capabilities with four Boeing KC-46A refueling tankers

These top-of-the-line aircrafts will “enable the IDF” to face security challenges near and far,” said the Israeli MOD, against the backdrop of the looming return to the Iran nuclear deal

Photo: Boeing website

Israel will buy four Boeing KC-46A refueling tankers for its air force, as the aviation and defense giant has been awarded a not-to-exceed $927.49 million contract. Signed on Wednesday (August 31st), the contract involves 100% Foreigm Military Sales (FMS) to Israel, with funds in the amount of $886.24 obligated at the time of award.  

Largely considered to be the top refueling tanker on the market, the Boeing KC-46A can fly for 11-12 hours and refuel dozens of combat aircrafts. The contract also includes mission equipment and installation, pre-delivery integrated logistics support, and technical publications. The work itself will be performed in Seattle, Washington.  

According to the US Department of Defense, the first aircraft are expected to arrive in Israel no sooner than late 2025. Intended to replace the decades-old Boeing 707s, the IAF’s current mid-air refuellers (known as “Re’em”, Hebrew for Oryx), these top-of-the-line aircrafts will significantly upgrade Israel’s military capabilities.

“The refueling aircraft that are being purchased, along with the procurement of the F-35 squadron, helicopters, submarines and advanced munition, will enable the IDF to face security challenges near and far,” said Israel’s Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, in a statement.

Thanking the US DOD for approving the deal, Gantz added that “This is yet another testament to the powerful alliance and strategic ties between the defense establishments and governments of Israel and the United States.”

The DOD announced this procurement as the resurrection of the Iran nuclear deal seems imminent, while Israel is engaged in fervent attempts to prevent this from happening – or at least make some serious alterations to the text. Last week, Gantz visited the US and met with National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Next week, Israel’s Head of Mossad, Dadi Barnea, is scheduled to make the trip to DC.

Hours before the tanker deal was announced, Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke on the phone with US President Joe Biden, who reiterated the US’s deep commitment to Israel’s security and to preserving its capabilities of deterring its enemies and defending itself against any threat.

Israel’s official stance is that, while it does not oppose a deal with Iran per se – what’s on the table at the moment is a bad deal, that would only result in billions of dollars flowing towards terrorism, and in an eventual Iranian bomb. On multiple occasion, Israel’s leaders have said that Jerusalem will not be bound to this agreement, and that Israel will do anything and everything to protect itself.  

A potential sale to Israel of up to eight Boeing tankers was approved by the US in 2020. In December of 2021, Israel reportedly asked the US to expedite the delivery of two aircrafts, but was told it would not be possible.  

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