Lockheed Pitches LMXT as ‘Mothership’ for Future Stealthy Tankers

Lockheed Martin is pitching its Airbus A330-based LMXT tanker as a “mothership” for the Air Pressure’s deliberate fleet of small, stealthy tankers—a rationale firm officers hope will overcome the service’s reticence to open its so-called “bridge tanker” purchase to competitors.

Lockheed officers detailed their argument June 6 throughout a press briefing to announce they’ve chosen the GE Aerospace CF6-80E1 engine to energy the LMXT tanker. The corporate is advertising and marketing the LMXT for the Air Pressure’s bridge tanker program, anticipated to include no less than 75 tankers between the conclusion of the present KC-46 program round 2030 and the longer term Subsequent Era Air refueling System within the mid-2030s, in keeping with service leaders.

Larry Gallogly, LMXT marketing campaign lead, famous the Air Pressure doesn’t need a hole in tanker manufacturing and expects to purchase the bridge tanker till the NGAS is prepared—and 2035 “we really feel … is a really, very aggressive goal,” he stated. Lockheed officers consider a 2040 timeline, which this system initially had, is extra seemingly.

“When you consider NGAS will actually take a bit longer earlier than it’s operational,” the variety of bridge tankers required “truly grows fairly considerably; someplace between 75 and I’d say, 150 plane, in the event that they proceed to purchase 15 plane a 12 months, which has all the time been [the Air Force’s] plan,” Gallogly stated. That enhance would enhance the enterprise case for LMXT, he argued.

Whereas the Air Pressure has but to rule out a contest for the bridge tanker and repair Secretary Frank has stated he’s reserving ultimate judgement till extra evaluation might be achieved, officers have stated they’re skeptical a tanker competitors can be value the associated fee, given the anticipated small measurement of the purchase and the necessity to create an all-new logistics practice for the plane. As a substitute, the service might merely purchase an upgraded model of the KC-46.

Nonetheless, Gallogly argued the LMXT would provide the service a number of benefits. As a result of it’s based mostly on the A330, it should have a worldwide upkeep, restore, and overhaul (MRO) enterprise, just like the KC-10, which was additionally derived from a industrial airliner. The LMXT would even be a hedge in opposition to a “single level failure” if the KC-46 develops a fleet-grounding drawback like a wing crack, Gallogly stated.

“Competitors drives worth,” Gallogly added, noting that Lockheed didn’t robotically choose the A330’s normal engine, which occurs to be the CF6.  

Lastly, Gallogly stated the plane would fulfill a necessity within the Air Pressure’s future tanker fleet.

An evaluation of options for the NGAS program is slated for later this 12 months, nevertheless it’s anticipated to be a small, stealthy tanker capable of function in contested airspace, feeding gas to fighters and autonomous Collaborative Fight Plane working on the finish of a protracted provide line.

Assuming that involves move, NGAS goes to wish “a mothership, in our view,” Gallogly stated—an plane that may gas NGAS and different stealthy plane earlier than they enter contested airspace, and connectivity and real-time evaluation whereas they’re there.

Gallogly stated Lockheed has heard the general tanker requirement is transferring by way of the Pentagon’s processes now and the necessities for the Bridge Tanker will solidify subsequent month, with a Request for Info to trade issued quickly after. The Air Pressure is anticipated to finish its acquisition technique by the tip of the calendar 12 months, he stated.

“Once we see these ultimate necessities, that can give us a a lot better concept of how nicely the LMXT is aligned with the priorities of the Air Pressure,” Gallogly stated. “And naturally, we’ve been getting constant and fixed suggestions from the service throughout our over 4 years now of pursuing this enterprise. So we predict we’ve acquired a fairly good concept of what these necessities are going to be, however such as you, we’re wanting ahead to truly seeing these necessities in writing.”

The LMXT is a a lot bigger plane than the KC-46, and the A330 Multi-Function Tanker Transport on which it’s based mostly was the competitor to what grew to become the KC-46—it received one Air Pressure competitors however misplaced the contract after a protest from Boeing, and misplaced the following second competitors. One of many Air Pressure’s discriminators in selecting the KC-46 was its skill to function from a higher variety of airfields, which can be a key issue underneath the service’s Agile Fight Employment mannequin.

Gallogly stated Lockheed doesn’t anticipate “a requirement for brief subject landings, however in operations within the Pacific, airfield entry is getting increasingly necessary. And we did take a look at our skill to have the LMXT function in varied airfields in that theater. This engine had an ideal impression on that. And actually, our airfield entry numbers are very spectacular, and we’ve been sharing these with the Air Pressure.”

He added that within the Pacific, there can be an “insatiable want for fuel,” and the Air Pressure will want an plane that may quickly refill its smaller NGAS plane to move on into contested airspace.

The CF6-80E1 equips the A330 Multi-Function Tanker-Transport (MRTTs) operated by Australia and Saudi Arabia, and GE stated at 72,000 kilos, it’s “the highest-thrust CF6 engine so far.” Gallogly famous that the CF6 was designed for the A330 and powers the C-5 Galaxy, E-4B, and VC-25 Air Pressure One within the USAF stock. There are some 8,500 CF6s flying. The newest model presents decrease emissions and longer time on wing, with 15 % improved gas effectivity over earlier variations of the CF6, GE stated.

Along with refueling capability, the Air Pressure has stated it sees the bridge tanker as performing further roles as an airborne web supplier, communications hub, and presumably an ersatz air battle administration platform.

These are roles for which Lockheed officers declare the LMXT is well-suited.

“After I take a look at what’s compelling about our providing—that can sway the Secretary and [Air Force acquisition executive Andrew Hunter] to see the worth of a contest—is precisely that way forward for aerial refueling,” Gallogly stated. “This plane has the area, it has {the electrical} energy … once more, because of our new GE engine choice. We’ve acquired lots of electrical energy on the plane to develop with the mission.”

The LMXT will even provide computerized air refueling, saving crew members and liberating up area inside the plane for communications personnel or CCA operators or another perform, Gallogly stated. Lockheed can be engaged on its Joint All-Area Command and Management (JADC2) capabilities which might be hosted on the LMXT, he stated.