Lockheed Martin
Illustration of the A330-based LMXT strategic tanker aircraft, shown refueling an F-35 fighter jet. LMXT strategic tanker aircraft and F-35 fighter jet.

Lockheed, Airbus Pick GE Engines for USAF Tankers

June 6, 2023
The proposal to supply the A330-based LMXT strategic tanker aircraft as an interim replacement offers domestic supply and logistics advantages for the U.S. Air Force.

Lockheed Martin, with input from Airbus, selected GE Aerospace's CF6-80E1 propulsion system for the LMXT strategic tanker, which Lockheed has proposed as the “bridge” tanker, to fill the U.S. Air Force’s refueling needs until a replacement is chosen for the Boeing KC-46A tankers.

The USAF is deciding how to address its current refueling requirements – either by purchasing new LMXT aircraft or by continuing purchases of the KC-46A. It’s not expected to conduct a full program replacement for its air refueling needs – referred to as the ‘Next Generation Air Refueling System – until 2035, or possibly later.

The LMXT is a based on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which is in service for multiple U.S. allies, including Australia, Canada, France, South Korea, the U.K., and several others.

Earlier, Lockheed and Airbus committed to manufacture the LMXT aircraft in Mobile, Ala., and Marietta, Ga., and Airbus will produce the LMXT's aerial refueling boom system in western Arkansas.

Lockheed’s engine choice came in a competitive process, it said. Reportedly, the GE Aerospace design emerged ahead of the Rolls-Royce Trent 700, and Lockheed noted production of the GE engine will support over 3,000 U.S. jobs in more than 25 states. And, because CF6 engines are already in place on various USAF platforms, the LMXT is already part of a “supply chain and existing knowledge base that can translate to increased mission readiness rates,” according to Lockheed’s statement.

GE’s CF6 engine is an established design for wide-body aircraft. The CF6-80E1 variant was designed specifically for the A330, offering nearly 70,000 pounds of thrust and 15% greater fuel efficiency, according to GE Aerospace.

"America's tanker fleet will play a critical role in meeting future mission requirements. This means the LMXT must use capable and proven technologies, such as the MRTT strategic tanker and GE Aerospace's CF6 engine," stated Lockheed Martin Aeronautics EVP Greg Ulmer.

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