Lockheed Martin, Airbus announce LMXT boom manufacturing location

By Michael Marrow / May 18, 2022 at 4:07 PM

The boom system for the LMXT air refueling tanker would be manufactured at an unspecified location in western Arkansas if the LMXT wins a potential bridge tanker competition, according to a Lockheed Martin press release.

The LMXT, designed by a joint Lockheed-Airbus team, is being offered by the two companies as a candidate for the KC-Y program floated by the Air Force that will field a bridge tanker after the delivery of the KC-46 Pegasus. Under current plans, the KC-Y will be followed by a futuristic KC-Z tanker that has yet to be defined by the service.

The Air Force plans to recapitalize the air refueling fleet, composed largely of the aging KC-135 Stratotanker, over the next 30 years, according to the service’s fiscal year 2023 budget justification documents. The service is requesting $11 million in FY-23 to support market research and pre-production analysis for the KC-Y, the documents say.

A business case analysis for the KC-Y is currently underway and is expected to conclude in mid-FY-23. Results from the analysis will then inform an acquisition strategy that will be announced by the service, according to Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Samantha Morrison.

The business case analysis is being pursued parallel to a formal joint requirements approval process that will commence in the third quarter of FY-22, Morrison added.

Lawmakers, many of whom have been frustrated by delays and defects with delivery of the KC-46, have recently pushed for a competition for the KC-Y contract in interviews with Inside Defense.

However, a future LMXT program may be in question after Air Force officials indicated the service may not pursue a competition, opting instead to modify the KC-46. “As we look at the requirements, it doesn’t look as necessary or cost-effective as it once did to introduce another aircraft, this KC-Y,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this month. “So, we’re not sure what we’re going to do about that yet.”

Initial delivery for the KC-Y is expected in FY-27, according to the justification documents.