Lockheed Martin on Friday introduced the LMXT, a proposal for the US Air Force’s KC-Y program. This is a competition that aims to replace the remaining KC-135 fleet with a new aerial refueling aircraft as of 2029.
The LMXT, however, is the MRTT, a military variant of the Airbus A330-200 and which has already participated in another competition of its kind at the USAF. In 2008, the European planemaker won the KC-X bid in partnership with Northrop Grumman.
However, Boeing managed to cancel the bidding in court, which was relaunched with the victory of the KC-46A in 2011.
Now Lockheed bets on an “American” strategy that involves the production of the LMXT in the USA and with an emphasis on its leadership in the program, despite the aircraft belonging to Airbus.
The LMXT will be an enhanced variant of the MRTT, an air transport and refueling jet that currently has 13 customers and 61 aircraft on order.
Larger than the KC-46 (based on the 767-200 freighter), the LMXT will be able to carry up to 271,700 lbs of fuel against the 212,300 lbs of the Boeing jet, which should return to compete under the KC-Y program.
In fact, the MRTT is an aircraft that is already certified to refuel in-flight several USAF aircraft such as the F-35A, F-22, F-16, A-10, B1-B, C-17, E-3, E-7, F-15 and the P-8A.
In addition, Airbus has a fully automatic boom/air-to-air refueling system called the A3R, something Boeing is still developing.
Despite the technical advantage and a possible assembly at the Airbus plant in Mobile, USA, the LMXT will face a competitor that is already in use by the USAF, that is, it is already a known aircraft and, above all, produced in the country.
On the other hand, the development of the KC-46 has been so troubled that it is unclear whether the Air Force still has confidence in obtaining satisfactory performance from the aircraft.