Boeing's 767 military tanker program on Tuesday delivered the first air refueling tanker for Japan's Air Force — just a week before...

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Boeing’s 767 military tanker program on Tuesday delivered the first air refueling tanker for Japan’s Air Force — just a week before the U.S. Air Force announces the winner of a massive contract to replace a large portion of its air tanker fleet.

Following a final review by Japanese Ministry of Defense officials, the airplane took off from Boeing’s tanker modification center in Wichita, Kan., on a 12-hour non-stop flight to Gifu, Japan, near Nagoya. Boeing said it will deliver the second Japan tanker immediately following formal acceptance of the first delivery.

Japan has ordered four of the 767 tankers, which feature an advanced aerial refueling boom. Boeing had to fix performance issues that arose during flight test, which made the first delivery a year late. Additionally, Boeing is building four tankers for Italy, with delivery of the first two aircraft planned by summer 2008.

The version of the 767 tanker Boeing has proposed for the U.S. Air Force is significantly different from the Japanese and Italian models, and faces stiff competition from a tanker based on the Airbus A330.