WASHINGTON – Lockheed Martin is over its efforts to compete for a U.S. Air Force contract to build the next wave of 75 tanker aircraft.
But Airbus, with which Lockheed Martin planned to build the planned LMXT strategic tanker, will continue to compete to recapitalize the KC-135. LMXT should have been based on Airbus’ A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport.
“Airbus remains committed to providing the U.S. Air Force and our fighter aircraft with the most modern and capable tanker aircraft on the market and will formally respond to the U.S. Air Force KC-135 request for information,” an Airbus spokesman said in a statement Monday on defense news. “The A330 US-MRTT is a reliable choice for the US Air Force; one that offers affordability, proven performance and unmatched capabilities.”
Lockheed spokeswoman Stephanie Stinn said in an earlier statement that the company decided not to respond to the Air Force’s request for information. The news was first reported by Reuters.
Stinn said Lockheed plans to transfer the team and resources working on the planned strategic tanker LMXT to other programs, including the Next Generation Aerial Refueling System (NGAS) program.
In a follow-up email, Stinn said the Air Force’s decision earlier this year to accelerate NGAS was one of several factors that led it to abandon its pursuit of LMXT, among other elements of the recent RFI focused on the next generation tanker aircraft. Lockheed declined to say how much the company and Airbus spent developing LMXT.
Lockheed’s decision to withdraw from tanker competition could increase rival Boeing’s chances of selling more KC-46 Pegasus tankers to the Air Force for the next phase of the service’s multibillion-dollar effort to restock its legacy KC-135 tankers. to replace Stratotanker aircraft.
The air force has established itself a three-stage process to recapitalize the KC-135, with the acquisition of 179 KC-46s now underway representing the first phase.
But the service this year reorganized its acquisition plans for the second and third phases of the tanker recapitalization. The Air Force originally planned to purchase about 150 tankers in the second phase, and Lockheed partnered with Airbus to recruit LMXT for that procurement. But for at least a year and a half, senior Air Force officials, including Secretary Frank Kendall, have strongly indicated that they would lean toward purchasing modified KC-46s for the next phase.
In March, the Air Force announced it would revise its tanker plans, cutting its planned purchase of phase two tankers in half to about 75. As part of its new tanker strategy, the Air Force also accelerated its plans to acquire NGAS.
The Air Force’s surprise cut in tanker purchases was a blow to LMXT. But Lockheed continued to make progress, and in June the company announced that it had selected an engine from General Electric Aerospace for LMXT. A Lockheed official told reporters at the time that the company hoped the engine choice would show the Air Force that LMXT was a viable solution to its tanker needs.
Scott Boyd, the Air Force’s deputy program manager for mobility aircraft, told reporters in Dayton, Ohio, in late July that purchasing a KC-46 was not a given. However, he said the service needed to consider whether its market research showed there was a viable alternative to the KC-46.
Stephen Losey is the air war reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He traveled to the Middle East to report on U.S. Air Force missions.
Source : www.defensenews.com