The Defense Agency plans to seek funding to make Air Self-Defense Force C-130 transport aircraft capable of receiving in-air refueling, agency sources said Sunday.

The move is intended to help ensure swifter airlifting of supplies for international peacekeeping operations as well as multinational emergency relief missions that involve long-range flights, the sources said.

The ASDF has 16 C-130 planes, which have a range of about 4,000 km. To make room for more relief cargo, they often fly with limited amounts of fuel, making their range even shorter.

The planes were used to transport relief supplies for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami last year, as well as to move supplies between Kuwait and Iraq.

They are also used to deliver relief supplies domestically.

To extend their flying range, the agency plans to seek funding in the fiscal 2006 budget to refit several for in-air refueling, the sources said.

In addition to moving relief supplies in the event of natural disasters, a ranking agency official said, “The U.S. military is short of transport planes. There could be occasions in the future when (the Japanese C-130s) get refueling from the U.S. military to supplement its activities.”

Earlier, the Defense Agency decided to refit the C-130s to refuel search and rescue helicopters as part of the medium-term defense buildup formulated late last year.

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