“In this unstable, international security environment, it is important for us to get together as allies with a strong, trustful relationship,” said JASDF Lt. Col. Tetsuji Kamiguchi, 405th Air Refueling Squadron commander. “This training is a big step for strengthening our alliance and interoperability by utilizing the same aircraft and working together to improve our operations.”
As told by Airman 1st Class Amanda Lovelace in the article Strengthening U.S.-Japan alliance through pilot training at Altus Air Force Base, to be fully qualified to operate the KC-46, over the course of three months the JASDF students went through the same training that US Airmen go through.
The curriculum started with an academic phase where the students attended up to four classes daily. During the second phase, they focused on simulators and performed pre-briefs and debriefs. During the third phase, the students completed eight flights and a check ride with one of the 56th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) instructors to finalize their training.
At Altus, the instructors taught six JASDF pilots and six JASDF boom operators here, who will return to their home unit in Japan, the 405th Air Refueling Squadron – an opportunity Kamiguchi said he and his squadron members were honored by.
US Air Force (USAF) Staff Sgt. Amy James, 56th ARS instructor boom operator, said she learned a lot from the students during their time at Altus. She also stated the importance of sharing knowledge with allied nations.
“This is my first time working with international students, so it’s been eye opening for me,” James said. “I think it helps us become better instructors. Language barrier aside, it makes us work harder. This helps us to find new ways of explaining things. I’ve learned and grown as an instructor, and I’ve really enjoyed trying to figure out how to build these relationships with our international allies.”
Japan is the KC-46 program’s first international customer and the first Boeing KC-46 tanker destined for the JASDF took to the skies on its maiden flight on Feb. 9, 2021.
Boeing is assembling KC-46A aircraft for both the USAF and Japan on its 767 production line in Everett, Washington. Boeing’s Japanese partners produce 16% of the KC-46 airframe structure.
The KC-46A is a derivative of the commercial 767-2C, a proven airframe in service as an airliner and freighter. Boeing has delivered more than 1,150 767s worldwide.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Amanda Lovelace / U.S. Air Force
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