If Lockheed Martin wins the contract for a new refueling tanker for the U.S. Air Force, work will be performed in Mobile and in Georgia, the defense contractor announced today.
The announcement should evoke a sense of déjà vu for the Mobile region. It was a similar partnership between Lockheed Martin and Airbus that first suggested aircraft construction in Mobile. After a bitter fight between Lockheed and Boeing, the tanker contract was awarded to Boeing.
Before the disappointment settled thoroughly in Mobile, Airbus announced plans to build commercial aircraft at the Aeroplex and Mobile’s industrial future took off.
The Lockheed proposal for the Air Force tanker is based around an Airbus A330. Today, the Airbus final assembly line in Mobile builds A320 and A220 family aircraft.
Last July, the Air Force announced a new competition for a contract to build as many as 160 tankers and the same two competitors jumped into the fray.
Lockheed’s announcement today reiterates its commitment to a U.S. workforce for the project — a concern because Airbus is based in the European Union.
“Establishing this production work in Alabama and Georgia confirms Lockheed Martin’s commitment that the LMXT will be built in America, by Americans, for Americans,” said Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO James Taiclet.
“The LMXT will strengthen global security by enabling our U.S. service members to carry out their most critical missions at extended ranges. At home, the LMXT will strengthen job growth and manufacturing by drawing on the experience and talents of a high-tech American workforce in two states that are proven leaders in aviation.”
Lockheed says that working with the A330, “the LMXT leverages known performance and capability insights from the strategic tanker of choice used by 14 nations around the world to currently refuel fighter, transport and maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. and allied partners.”
Airbus Americas Chairman and CEO C. Jeffrey Knittel said, “Over our 50-year history in the U.S., some of our proudest moments have come from supporting our American service members. Our U.S. workforce, which is more than 35% military veterans, is eager to see an Air Force tanker join the fleet of Airbus aircraft flying for the U.S. Army, National Guard, Navy and Coast Guard.”
Lockheed announced a two-phase approach to the project, if it wins the contract. In the first phase, A330 airliners will be built at the Airbus plant in Mobile. In the second phase, the airliners will be converted to the tanker model at Lockheed facilities in Marietta, Georgia.
Lockheed currently has some 2,600 employees in Alabama and another 5,000 in Georgia. Airbus has more than 1,000 employees at the final assembly line in Mobile.