Lockheed Martin Drops Out of KC-135 Tanker Competition

Lockheed Martin LMXT Concept. Image – Lockheed Martin

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.

About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter. As the Internet grew in importance as a research tool, he helped design the company's Forecast Intelligence Center and currently coordinates the EMarket Alert newsletters for clients. Richard also manages social media efforts, including two new blogs: Defense & Security Monitor, covering defense systems and international issues, and Flight Plan, which focuses on commercial aviation and space systems. For over 30 years, Richard has authored the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed data on major aerospace and defense contractors. He also edits the International Contractors service, a database that tracks all the contractors involved in the programs covered in the FI library. More recently he was appointed Manager, Information Services Group (ISG), a new unit that encompasses developing outbound content for both Forecast International and Military Periscope.

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