The US State Department recently approved the possible sale of eight KC-46 tanker aircraft that would replace Israel’s Ram (Boeing 707) tanker aircraft which are nearing the age of 60. According to reports, the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs made the announcement of the sale on March 2.
The estimated cost of the eight KC-46 tanker aircraft is $2.4 billion and they are expected to land in Israel by late 2023. As per reports, US State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs claimed in a statement that the US was committed to the future security of Israel and it is beneficial to the US's national interests to help Israel develop strong self-defence capabilities. The Bureau also added that the sale of the tanker aircraft was in line with those objectives.
According to reports, the Bureau also claimed that the sale of these tanker aircraft will also potentially free up US assets during times of war or crisis. Aerial refuelling and strategic airlift have been consistently cited as the shortfalls of US allies. The sale of the aircraft will also help improve Israel's national security posture as a key US ally according to reports.
The announcement of the proposed sale comes despite delays in the aircraft's development. As per reports, the main question regarding the design rested with its refuelling function. The US Air Force found significant problems with KC-46's remote vision system which is essential when it comes to lining up and attaching the refuelling boom to the aircraft.
According to reports, Israel’s fleet of Ram planes is former civilian aircraft that had been adapted for military uses such as ariel refuelling and converted into transport aircraft. Similar to other tankers, the KC-46 has a three-man crew, consisting of two pilots and a boomer. Reports have shown that the KC-46 has a range of 11,830 kilometres and has the capacity to unload approximately 207,000 pounds of fuel, the KC-46 can refuel over 64 different types of aircraft.