The U.S. Air Force plans to move back discussions with companies on a possible KC-Y tanker from this fiscal year until fiscal 2023.

In fiscal 2022, Air Mobility Command at Scott AFB, Ill. plans to submit the final KC-Y Capability Development Document to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and conduct an “early strategy and issues session,” but the KC-Y program office has pushed back a possible industry day and a Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System to define DoD requirements and evaluation criteria for KC-Y until fiscal 2023, per two industry notices on May 12 and May 31.

The Air Force is examining the attributes of a future KC-Z tanker, but it appears that the future of a KC-Y “bridge tanker” is in doubt (Defense Daily, May 3).

The KC-Z design may include stealth, as the aircraft may have to survive adversary air-to-air and missile threats hundreds of miles away from U.S. forces’ ground targets.

The KC-Y commercial derivative tanker could fill the gap between the fielding of the 179th Boeing [BA] KC-46 in 2029, or later, and the KC-Z. The KC-46 fleet and possible future tankers would replace more than 400 KC-135s and KC-10s in the coming decades.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 3 that “as we looked at the requirements, it doesn’t look as necessary or as cost effective as it once did to introduce another aircraft as KC-Y.”

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do about that yet,” he said. “We haven’t finished analyzing the requirements. But if the needle was over here at competition, it’s moved back toward not necessarily having competition, part of the way anyway.”

Lockheed Martin [LMT] has been gearing up for a KC-Y competition and, in January, said that the company plans to build the LMXT refueler, based on the Airbus A330, in Mobile, Ala., and Marietta, Ga. (Defense Daily, Jan. 31).

The companies also recently announced that they will build the aerial refueling boom for their proposed LMXT tanker in western Arkansas.

The companies have yet to designate a western Arkansas location to host the Airbus plant that would build the LMXT boom. While Lockheed Martin said that it opened its first plant in Arkansas in 1978—in Camden, where some 1,300 company employees work on Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control programs, the Airbus plant would be that company’s first Arkansas location. Airbus said that it builds the A320 and A220 airliners in Alabama.