Lockheed Martin Corp. and Airbus S.E. signed an agreement to work together to develop aerial refueling capabilities for U.S. defense customers.
The U.S. Air Force aims to replace its fleet of over 400 tankers while addressing the demand for aerial refueling with various different arrangements, which may include fee-for-service refueling, additional new aircraft, and possibly a "stealth" tanker, according to reports. Lockheed and Airbus committed to offer options for such scenarios; to provide aerial-refueling services to address any identified capacity shortfall; and to meet emerging requirements for tankers capable of operating in future combat scenarios
The Lockheed co-op marks the first notable effort by Airbus to secure a position in the U.S. defense supply chain since failed in a bid to acquire BAE Systems, in 2012. Earlier, Airbus which worked with Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop a USAF tanker program based on its A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT). It lost that bid to Boeing Co., which currently supplies its KC-46A tankers to the Air Force.
The new project also will be based on the A330 MRTT, and will focus on defining ways to support critical near-term air-refueling needs. "The A330 MRTT has been selected by a dozen nations around the world. It is extensively proven in live operations and has been repeatedly praised by major air forces,” according to Fernando Alonso, who heads the Military Aircraft unit for Airbus Defence and Space. “We are convinced that the combination of Airbus' tanker expertise with Lockheed Martin's extensive U.S. presence, has the potential to provide highly effective solutions for current and future U.S. military aerial refueling requirements."
Lockheed chairman Marillyn Hewson noted that the combined expertise of Airbus and Lockheed Martin would provide the USAF with refueling capabilities for current “security challenges."
"Reliable and modernized aerial refueling is an essential capability for our customers to maintain their global reach and strategic advantage," Hewson stated