If Israel indeed decides to take out Iran, the Trump administration has just made it much easier.
That’s because the U.S. State Department approved an Israeli request to buy eight KC-46A Pegasus aerial tankers reports the Middle East Forum. This includes support equipment, spare parts, and training. The entire deal is valued at $2.4 billion. The first aircraft shipment is set to arrive in 2023.
The deal “supports the foreign policy and national security of the United States by allowing Israel to provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war,” the State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. “Aerial refueling and strategic airlift are consistently cited as significant shortfalls for our allies. In addition, the sale improves Israel’s national security posture as a key U.S. ally.”
So long as the sale is approved by the U.S. Congress — which is likely — is notable from several perspectives. This will be the first time Washington sold tanker aircraft to Israel. To date, Israel’s Air Force has 11 tankers. This includes seven American-manufactured Boeing 707 airliners and four Lockheed Martin C-130H transports. However, it was the Israelis themselves who upgraded these planes into tankers.
The problem is that the majority of Israel’s tankers are outdated – 60 years old to be precise. Israel is so desperate to maintain aerial refueling capability – which enables its aircraft to fly long-distance across the Middle East – that in 2017, it bought an old Brazilian Air Force 707 just for its spare parts.
The KC-46A Pegasus has a range of over 6,000 miles. A direct flight path between Jerusalem and Tehran is less than a thousand miles each way.
It is based on Boeing’s 767 airliners, the twin-engine KC-46A can hold 106 tons of fuel to fill up empty jet fighters.
It is worth noting that the State Department’s approval of the deal is meant to “provide a redundant capability to U.S. assets within the region, potentially freeing U.S. assets for use elsewhere during times of war.” This means that the U.S. is selling tankers to Israel with the expectation that they will be used to support American as well as Israeli forces during wartime.
However, the U.S. government also asserts that the sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”