Lockheed Martin has opted out of the USAF KC-135 Tanker Recapitalization competition, according to a report on Defense One.
Lockheed Martin and Airbus originally teamed up in September 2021 to offer the LMXT for the KC-Y program. The LMXT is based on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). As the prime contractor, Lockheed Martin would have implemented U.S. Air Force-specific requirements within the LMXT.
The tanker recapitalization effort began in June 2021 when the U.S. Air Force issued a sources sought notice for a tanker aircraft, dubbed the KC-Y, that would bridge the gap between the KC-46 and a next-generation tanker (KC-Z) beginning in 2029. The USAF expects to receive its last KC-46 in 2029, and the service needs an aircraft to supplement the fleet once deliveries are complete. However, by mid-2022 news reports indicated that the USAF may skip the competition and just continue procurement of the KC-46.
In March 2023, the USAF shrank the size of the procurement to 75 aircraft. The cut reinforces speculation that a competition may skipped in favor of continued Boeing KC-46 procurement.
In July 2023, Air Force officials announced that they planned to issue a request for information (RFI) for the next phase in the KC-135 Tanker Recapitalization Program, which has replaced the now-defunct KC-Y effort. Under this RFI, the service will investigate next-generation air refueling system (NGAS) options.
With Lockheed Martin out of the picture, Boeing is now the frontrunner with its KC-46A. However, Airbus has not yet announced if it will pursue the competition independently.