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Air-Gap Install

RKE2 can be installed in an air-gapped environment with two different methods. You can either deploy via the rke2-airgap-images tarball release artifact, or by using a private registry.



If your node has NetworkManager installed and enabled, ensure that it is configured to ignore CNI-managed interfaces.

All files mentioned in the steps can be obtained from the assets of the desired released rke2 version here.

If running on an air-gapped node with SELinux enabled, you must manually install the necessary SELinux policy RPM before performing these steps. See our RPM Documentation to determine what you need.

If running on an air-gapped node with SELinux enabled, the following are required dependencies for SLES, CentOS, or RHEL 8 when doing an RPM install:

Installing dependencies: container-selinux iptables libnetfilter_conntrack libnfnetlink libnftnl policycoreutils-python-utils rke2-common rke2-selinux

All the steps listed on this document must be run as the root user or through sudo.

If your nodes do not have an interface with a default route, a default route must be configured; even a black-hole route via a dummy interface will suffice. RKE2 requires a default route in order to auto-detect the node's primary IP, and for kube-proxy ClusterIP routing to function properly. To add a dummy route, do the following:

ip link add dummy0 type dummy
ip link set dummy0 up
ip addr add dev dummy0
ip route add default via dev dummy0 metric 1000

Tarball Method

  1. Download the airgap images tarballs from the RKE release artifacts list for the version and platform of RKE2 you are using.
    • Use rke2-images.linux-amd64.tar.zst, or rke2-images.linux-amd64.tar.gz for releases prior to v1.20. Zstandard offers better compression ratios and faster decompression speeds compared to gzip.
    • If using the default Canal CNI (--cni=canal), you can use either the rke2-image legacy archive as described above, or rke2-images-core and rke2-images-canal archives.
    • If using the alternative Cilium CNI (--cni=cilium), you must download the rke2-images-core and rke2-images-cilium archives instead.
    • If using your own CNI (--cni=none), you can download only the rke2-images-core archive.
    • If enabling the vSphere CPI/CSI charts (--cloud-provider-name=rancher-vsphere), you must also download the rke2-images-vsphere archive.
  2. Ensure that the /var/lib/rancher/rke2/agent/images/ directory exists on the node.
  3. Copy the compressed archive to /var/lib/rancher/rke2/agent/images/ on the node, ensuring that the file extension is retained.
  4. Install RKE2

Private Registry Method

As of RKE2 v1.20, private registry support honors all settings from the containerd registry configuration. This includes endpoint override and transport protocol (HTTP/HTTPS), authentication, certificate verification, etc.

Prior to RKE2 v1.20, private registries must use TLS, with a cert trusted by the host CA bundle. If the registry is using a self-signed cert, you can add the cert to the host CA bundle with update-ca-certificates. The registry must also allow anonymous (unauthenticated) access.

  1. Add all the required system images to your private registry. A list of images can be obtained from the .txt file corresponding to each tarball referenced above, or you may docker load the airgap image tarballs, then tag and push the loaded images.
  2. If using a private or self-signed certificate on the registry, add the registry's CA cert to the containerd registry configuration, or operating system's trusted certs for releases prior to v1.20.
  3. Install RKE2 using the system-default-registry parameter, or use the containerd registry configuration to use your registry as a mirror for

Install RKE2

The following options to install RKE2 should only be performed after completing one of either the Tarball Method or Private Registry Method.

RKE2 can be installed either by running the binary directly or by using the script.

RKE2 Binary Install

  1. Obtain the rke2 binary file rke2.linux-amd64.
  2. Ensure the binary is named rke2 and place it in /usr/local/bin. Ensure it is executable.
  3. Run the binary with the desired parameters. For example, if using the Private Registry Method, your config file would have the following:
system-default-registry: ""

Note: The system-default-registry parameter must specify only valid RFC 3986 URI authorities, i.e. a host and optional port.

RKE2 Script Install may be used in an offline mode by setting the INSTALL_RKE2_ARTIFACT_PATH variable to a path containing pre-downloaded artifacts. This will run though a normal install, including creating systemd units.

  1. Download the install script, rke2, rke2-images, and sha256sum archives from the release into a directory, as in the example below:
mkdir /root/rke2-artifacts && cd /root/rke2-artifacts/
curl -OLs
curl -OLs
curl -OLs
curl -sfL --output
  1. Next, run using the directory, as in the example below:
INSTALL_RKE2_ARTIFACT_PATH=/root/rke2-artifacts sh
  1. Enable and run the service as outlined here.