Is Indian Air Force Leasing KC-46 Mid-Air Refuellers To Support Its Latest Fighter Jets?

US aerospace and defense company Boeing has offered the Indian Air Force (IAF) an option to lease its KC-46 mid-air refueling tankers, which would help the service fill a major capability gap, according to reports. 

According to The Financial Express, Boeing is competing with European firm Airbus, which has offered the A330 MRTT platform to IAF. India’s new defense acquisition policy has opened doors for the leasing of foreign military hardware, which will help in the rapid modernization of the armed forces. 

“We are in talks with the IAF for KC-46tanker. There is a requirement for air-to-air refueling and we are working through certain issues. We are open to leasing these tankers. 

“We already lease commercial aircraft to various domestic airlines in India; we understand there is provision for leasing military platforms in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP),” Torbjorn Sjogren, VP, International Government & Defence, Boeing Global Services told Financial Express Online. 

He also compared the KC-46 ‘Pegasus’ to the A330 MRTT and said, there is a need for mid-air refuellers in India. He stressed that the Boeing KC-46 can operate out of both big and small airports, which will eventually bring down IAF’s operational cost compared to others.

Boeing’s KC-46 is more of a combat tanker, Sjogren asserted.

In a similar leasing procedure, the Indian Navy had leased two MQ-9B UAVs in November last year.

The KC-46 ‘Pegasus’

The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus is an American military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft developed by Boeing from its 767 jet airliner. It is a widebody, low-wing cantilever monoplane with a conventional tail unit featuring a single fin and rudder.

It has a retractable tricycle landing gear and a hydraulic flight control system and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4062 engines, one mounted under each wing. The KC-46 has been described as combining “the 767-200ER’s fuselage, with the 767-300F’s wing, gear, cargo door, and floor, with the 767-400ER digital flight-deck and flaps”.

The aircraft is in use by the US Air Force. Boeing has already delivered 42 aircraft to the service with more than 90 planes currently on order. Recently, Israel also decided to purchase four KC-46A tankers; Japan, too, has given orders for 4 aircraft.

Interestingly, when the Indian Air Force sent out the request for information (RFI) for six refueling aircraft to Boeing, Airbus, and Ilyushin, the Russian contender was rejected as the proposal only asked for an aircraft with two turbofan engines. This left only KC-46 and A330 MRTT eligible for the tender.

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