Lockheed Martin will no longer offer the LMXT aircraft, an A330 MRTT aerial refueling aircraft designed to replace the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) KC-135s.
In a statement released Monday, the company said it will focus its staff and resources on other projects such as an aerial refueling solution for the USAF’s future 6th generation fighter.
“Lockheed Martin has decided not to respond to the U.S. Air Force’s KC-135 fleet recapitalization Request for Information (RFI). We are transitioning Lockheed Martin’s LMXT team and resources to new opportunities and priority programs within Lockheed Martin, including development of aerial refueling solutions in support of the U.S. Air Force’s Next-Generation Air-Refueling System (NGAS) initiative,” the company said.
Lockheed had teamed up with Airbus to once again offer the A330 MRTT (Multirole Transport Tanker), a cargo and aerial refueling variant with greater capacity than the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus.
Previously, the European manufacturer had participated in the KC-X competition, but in partnership with Northrop Grumman, but ended up defeated by the US rival after a legal battle.
The Air Force had launched a second competition, KC-Y, for a “bridge” aircraft that could replace the remaining KC-135 Stratotankers as a complement to the previous program.
However, the Pentagon changed the project to an order for 75 aircraft, which may have been one of the reasons for Lockheed Martin’s withdrawal.
The small quantity would mean greater difficulty in convincing the USAF to invest in a new plane and technology instead of expanding the order for the KC-46, a jet based on the 767-200 and which experienced several problems during its development.
Without Lockheed, the scenario is largely favorable to Boeing, despite Airbus having stated that it is considering moving forward with the A330 MRTT proposal. Without a North American partner, however, the chances of victory are slim.