Cobb’s state legislative delegation goes to bat for Lockheed Martin’s tanker bid prospects, amid Sec. of Air Force doubts

A large tanker aircraft with a much smaller fighter jet attached by a fuel lineRendering courtesy of Lockeed Martin from a press release

Members of Cobb County’s state legislative delegation are urging Georgia’s U.S. senators to advocate to the Department of Defense for a bid process that would allow Lockheed Martin to submit it’s proposal for its proposed LMXT aerial refueling tanker.

If Lockheed Martin gets to bid, and if it wins the project, it would be jointly built by Airbus and Lockheed Martin on the following schedule:

Phase 1: The LMXT would be first produced as an A330 airliner at Airbus’ Mobile, Alabama, facility, which is where Airbus A320 and A220 commercial airliners are built.
Phase 2: The second phase of the manufacturing process would include converting the commercial aircraft into the LMXT tanker at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ Marietta, Georgia, facility, which is currently home to the C-130J Super Hercules final production and F-35 Lightning II center wing assembly lines.

A press release about the county legislative delegation’s letter stated:

The United States Air Force is currently using a short-term aerial refueling tanker solution, the KC-46, which has been challenged with cost overruns and operational limitations resulting from technical flaws.  A true next-generation aerial refueling tanker, the LMXT, has been designed by Lockheed Martin in partnership with Airbus and is their offering for the KC-Y “Bridge Tanker” program competition. This new platform would significantly expand support capability for American forces in both national defense and humanitarian relief scenarios.  Advancing with a competition would create an opportunity for a superior, more capable refueling tanker to replace the aging KC-135 tankers. 

Additionally, the LMXT would be assembled at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta manufacturing facility and could create over 1,000 good-paying jobs for Georgia manufacturing workers. This presents another great opportunity for Georgia companies and their workforce to showcase the manufacturing prowess of the state, drawing on the experience and talents of a high-tech workforce that has proven itself as a leader in aviation.

The letter was signed by Representatives Erick Allen (D-Smyrna), Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna), John Carson (R-Marietta), Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta), Don Parsons (R-Marietta), Devan Seabaugh (R-Marietta), Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), Erica Thomas (D-Austell), David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs), Mary Frances Williams (D-Marietta) and Senators Kay Kirkpatrick (R-East Cobb) and Michael Rhett (D-Powder Springs).

“The men and women of Lockheed Martin’s Marietta facility have an unmatched record of building true workhorse aircraft for the United States military. These aircraft match cutting-edge technology with a high level of reliability, and I am 100% confident our team there can win this work if they are only given a chance to compete,” said Representative Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) for the press release.

“Putting fuel in aircraft is core to our mission of supporting our land, air, and naval forces wherever they are deployed around the globe. This critical mission deserves an adequate platform, and I am proud to stand behind our Lockheed team’s proposal and advocate for a value-based, fair and transparent competition to make sure we get the best, most affordable possible solution,” said Senator Kay Kirpatrick (R-East Cobb) for the press release.

Doubts from the Secretary of the Air Force

But statements by Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall earlier in the year cast doubts that the competition will take place.

Kendall, during a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, quoted in, said, “I love competition. I’m all for it. It’s the best tool (we)have to reduce costs. But we actually have to have a demand for the other aircraft that’s being offered.”

“And I’m trying to be as transparent and honest about this as I can be. It is not as certain as it was a year ago, let’s say, that we’re going to do a competition,” he said. “And I don’t want people to have a mis-impression about that. [But] we have not made a final decision yet.”

If the competition is skipped, the Air Force will continue buying the Boeing KC-46, the tanker the Air Force has been buying since 2011.