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Lockheed Martin picks two US states to build USAF tanker

Lockheed Martin plans to offer the LMXT for the US Air Force's KC-Y tanker programme. The LMXT is based on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. (Lockheed Martin photo by Brandon Stoker)

A Lockheed Martin-led team will build its proposed LMXT aerial refuelling aircraft in Alabama and Georgia if it wins the US Air Force (USAF) KC-Y tanker competition, the US defence contractor announced on 31 January.

The LMXT, which Lockheed Martin first unveiled in September 2021, would be a USAF version of the existing Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). The basic “green” aircraft would be produced at a new factory at Airbus' commercial airliner assembly site in Mobile, Alabama. It would then be modified into a tanker at Lockheed Martin's former C-5 transport upgrade plant in Marietta, Georgia.

Lockheed Martin's team would initially build a “very tiny fraction” of the LMXTs at existing Airbus facilities in Toulouse, France, and Getafe, Spain, before moving the work to the US, said Larry Gallogly, the LMXT programme director at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. This would enable the US workforce to be trained at the European sites.

In addition to helping meet Buy American Act requirements and generating political support from the Alabama and Georgia congressional delegations, building the LMXT at US facilities would make it easier to meet an expected plethora of USAF-specific requirements for the KC-Y programme, which calls for buying 140–160 aircraft. Tankers for non-US customers will continue to be produced in Europe.

Lockheed Martin estimates the Alabama and Georgia work would create about 1,300 direct jobs. The figure does not include the increase in supply chain employment that would occur.

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