Israel is working at speed to convert Boeing 767 into a long-flight refueling tanker
US defense and air industry sources report that the Israeli Air Force may give up on the US Boeing’s KC-46A Pegasus as its future refueling tanker for long-range flights because of delays in its delivery. Israel had first planned to take the Pegasus to replace its converted Boeing 707 when delivery was first to the US Air Force was scheduled for August 2017. But this week, the company put the date back by another eight months and the price increased by half a billion dollars.
American sources point out that if Israel wants to retain the option of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities when Barack Obama exits the White House in January 2017, it can’t wait for the brand-new US Pegasus tanker, which doubles as a military transport plane, to come off the Boeing production line and be delivered to its air force. The Boeing 707 in current service, after a multibillion investment in its conversion to a long-flight refueling tanker, no longer meets the fluctuating conditions in the Middle East. Work is therefore going ahead on the conversion of the Boeing 767 as its replacement.
On July 22, debkafile’s military sources revealed a mammoth transaction for Iran to purchase Russian UL78 MK1 (Midas) tankers with a range of 7,300km. (The distance from Iran to Israel is 1,200km). Each tanker is capable of spontaneously feeding 6-8 fighter craft.
This purchase represented Tehran’s aspiration – not just to draw level with Israel but to outdo its air force in range and fueling capability. This transaction no doubt spurred the decision by Israel’s defense chiefs to go ahead on its own project, instead of waiting for the American KC-46A to become available.
Israel Aerospace Industries [IAI] is therefore working at top speed on the Boeing 767, a long-range, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner with a range of 7,000 to 11,000 km. The converted aircraft will be designated 767-200ER MRTT.
In an interview published by the German newspaper Der Spiegel on Aug. 8, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: “Ultimately it is very clear, one way or another, Iran’s military nuclear program must be stopped. We will act in any way, including taking military action, and are not willing to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. We prefer that this be done by means of sanctions, but in the end, Israel should be able to defend itself.”