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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Newly acquired fuel tanker aircraft will allow Japan to perform aerial refueling of U.S. military aircraft during joint exercises, the U.S. Department of Defense said this week.

In the past, the two countries signed an agreement for mutual air-to-air refueling, but the U.S. alone accomplished the work for both militaries because Japan lacked the aircraft required under NATO refueling guidelines, according to the DOD.

Japan recently bought four Boeing KC-767 tankers that will allow its military to fuel U.S. aircraft during exercises performed under the two countries joint security treaty, a move that could expand military capabilities, DOD said in a release.

So far, no Japanese aircraft have refueled U.S. aircraft. The department said the new tankers will be able to be used once Japan formally signs on to the NATO guidelines on refueling.

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