On Jan. 31, Lockheed Martin [LMT] said that if it wins a U.S. Air Force competition for the KC-Y “bridge tanker,” the company plans to build the LMXT refueler, based on the Airbus A330, in Mobile, Ala., and Marietta, Ga.
“Built on the combat-proven design of the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), the LMXT leverages known performance and capability insights from the strategic tanker of choice used by 14 nations around the world to currently refuel fighter, transport and maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. and allied partners,” Lockheed Martin and Airbus said on Jan. 31.
The tanker wars appear to be heating up. The same day as the Lockheed Martin announcement, Boeing [BA] said that it had delivered its 55th KC-46A Pegasus tanker to the Air Force last week out of a planned 179.
The Air Force may need additional tankers beyond the 179 planned KC-46As, as the mainstays of the tanker fleet, the decades-old Boeing KC-135s and KC-10s retire.
“With our next delivery, there will be as many KC-46 tankers in the USAF fleet as KC-10 Extenders—and more KC-46s in operation globally than any other tanker except the Boeing-built KC-135 Stratotanker,” Boeing said on Jan. 31.
The Jan. 31 announcement by Lockheed Martin and Airbus is a redux of sorts, as Mobile was to be the site of the building of the Northrop Grumman [NOC] and EADS–now Airbus–KC-45 for the Air Force. In 2008, the Government Accountability Office upheld a bid protest by Boeing, and the latter’s KC-46 won a new competition in 2011.
In the Jan. 31 statement, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet was gung-ho for LMXT, which he said “will be built in America, by Americans, for Americans.”
C. Jeffrey Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, said in the same statement that the Airbus U.S. workforce, “which is more than 35% military veterans, is eager to see an Air Force tanker join the fleet of Airbus aircraft flying for the U.S. Army, National Guard, Navy and Coast Guard.”
The LMXT production would come in two phases: the first in Mobile would build the standard A330 airliner, and the second would convert the A330 to the LMXT configuration at Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics plant in Marietta.
“Lockheed Martin and Airbus entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) in 2018 to explore aerial-refueling solutions to address any refueling capacity shortfalls for the U.S. Air Force, with the MRTT at the center of its discussions,” the companies said on Jan. 31.