Lockheed Martin and Airbus Offer Options for the USAF in the Tanking Domain

By Defense.Info Media Team

The USAF chose the A330MRTT and it has gone on from that selection to become the global tanker of choice.

It is operating successfully for many Air Forces, but just not for the USAF which is still waiting for the new tanker promised a decade ago by Boeing.

To fill the gap, recently an RFI was released by the US government for ways to meet the tanking shortfall.

This RFI was issued earlier this year:

The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) Acquisition Directorate (TCAQ) is conducting market research to determine the feasibility and capability of a commercial outlet to augment our current air refueling capability.

More specifically, the timelines, cost, liability and requirements to support the development/delivery of a commercial Air Refueling (AR) capability to complement the Department of Defense’s (DoD) ‘CURRENT’ Aerial Refueling tanker fleet(s) which is used to support the DoD (All Services), Air Mobility Command (AMC) and USTRANSCOM requirements.

This announcement is a Request for Information (RFI) for informational and planning purposes only. THIS IS NOT A REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS OR SOLICITATION. WE ARE SEEKING INDUSTRY INPUT FOR MARKET RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY. PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT PROPOSALS IN RESPONSE TO THIS MARKET RESEARCH. Proprietary information submitted shall be appropriately marked. Please note USTRANSCOM will NOT be responsible for any costs incurred by interested parties in responding to this RFI.

USTRANSCOM highly encourages responses from capable businesses of all sizes; large and small business concerns, to include all the socioeconomic categories.

The expectation for any commercial AR capability would be:

  1. Able to offload at flow rates comparable to Air Force AR rates for each receiver.
  2. Capable of carrying a minimum of 50,000 pounds of fuel for at least 1500 miles.
  3. Capable of worldwide flight operations in both civil and military permissive airspace.
  4. If a probe and drogue equipped, systems must be compatible with US and Allied mil spec receivers currently supported by existing compatible tankers.
  5. If centerline boom equipped, systems must be compatible with US and Allied mil spec receivers currently supported by existing compatible tankers.
  6. Able to communicate on necessary radio platforms to conduct air refueling with military aircraft, both inside and outside of the Continental US.

In part to deal with this opportunity, Lockheed Martin and Airbus Defence and Space reached an agreement to provide options for the USAF.

According to an Airbus Defence and Space Press Release:

Madrid, 4 December 2018 – Lockheed Martin and Airbus have signed an agreement to jointly explore opportunities to meet the growing demand for aerial refuelling for US defence customers.

The companies will seek to provide aerial-refuelling services to address any identified capacity shortfall and to meet requirements for the next generation of tankers capable of operating in the challenging environments of the future battlespace.

“Reliable and modernized aerial refuelling is an essential capability for our customers to maintain their global reach and strategic advantage,” said Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson. “By combining the innovation and expertise of Airbus and Lockheed Martin, we will be well positioned to provide the United States Air Force and allies around the world with the advanced refuellingsolutions needed to meet 21st century security challenges.”

“The US Air Force deserves the best aerial-refuelling technology and performance available under the sun and this great industry team, Lockheed Martin and Airbus, will offer exactly that,” said Tom Enders, Airbus CEO.

The companies are taking a cooperative approach, with the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A330 MRTT) at its heart, to examine a broad spectrum of opportunities.  These may range from ways to support critical near-term air-refuellingneeds, such as a fee-for-service structure to conceptualizing the tanker of the future.   

Airbus Defence and Space Head of Military Aircraft Fernando Alonso said: “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. We are convinced that the combination of Airbus’ tanker expertise with Lockheed Martin’s extensive US presence, has the potential to provide highly effective solutions for current and future US military aerial-refuelling requirements.”

Lockheed Martin has a long and successful history of systems integration, manufacturing and MRO operations with large airlift and tanker aircraft.  When combined with Airbus’ expertise, the two companies will field a strong team to address future air refuelling needs.

“Airbus is an industry leader in the aerial refuelling area, and Lockheed Martin is known for cutting-edge defensive technologies and capabilities,” said Michele Evans, Executive Vice President, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “This is a great opportunity for our two companies to combine our expertise – cooperating to develop world-class solutions for critical needs around the world.”