—John A. Tirpak
Lockheed Martin has been in talks with US Transportation Command about providing Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transports to the US Air Force, either as a sale, lease, or “fee for service” platform, to supplement the Air Force’s aging tanker fleet, Michele Evans, company executive vice president of aeronautical programs, told reporters on June 13 in advance of the Paris Air Show.
Lockheed and Airbus are partnered on the aircraft, which Evans said could be a strong competitor if the Air Force opts to compete the second phase of its KC-135 replacement program, known as KC-Y. The A330 could deliver fuel at a lower price per gallon than the KC-46, she asserted. The MRTT has been successful in almost all of its international competitions with the KC-46, she noted.
Although Lockheed has promoted a stealth tanker idea for many years, Evans did not champion that concept saying it isn’t clear what the Air Force’s needs will be.
Evans also discussed the status of other major Lockheed aeronautical programs, both those in production as well as future projects, saying Boeing’s extremely low bids—and contract victories—on the Air Force T-X trainer, UH-1N replacement helicopter, and Navy MQ-25 were “tough losses for us.”
“They always make you reconsider what is your strategy, what is your plan,” she added, noting it also driving a “digital transformation” at Lockheed, as well as “model-based engineering, all the way to a factory of the future.”
Evans said Lockheed believes it can “be competitive with Boeing,” but she acknowledged that “time will tell if they can demonstrate performance to what they bid. We are a company that’s going to make sure we deliver on our commitments.”
Lockheed invested a lot in the T-50A trainer for the Air Force T-X advanced trainer competition, and Evans said the company may partner with Korean Aerospace Industries to offer the jet in other contests around the world.
Lockheed may also partner with Japan on its replacement for the F-2 fighter, itself a derivative of the F-16. The notional aircraft might have aerodynamic features like the F-22 and avionics like the F-35, and because Japan is building a large final assembly and checkout facility for the F-35, it will have the capability of building such an airplane, Evans said.
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