Airbus and Lockheed Martin have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to provide aerial refueling services for current and future tankers. 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-refueling needs, such as a fee-for-service structure to conceptualizing the tanker of the future. 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.
“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 refuelling solutions 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 Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport is an aerial tanker aircraft based on the Airbus A330. 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-refueling needs, such as a fee-for-service structure to conceptualizing the tanker of the future. The A330 MRTT has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, British Royal Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force and others. It is capable of carrying over 140,000 pounds of aviation gas while staying airborne for many hours depending on the fuel and cargo load.
Aerial refueling is a large contract with fierce competition between firms like Lockheed, Boeing, Airbus and others. The U.S. Air Force has the most extensive fleet of aerial tanker aircraft in the world and often assists allied nations in joint operations. The USAF currently fields 510 tankers in the form of 59 McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extenders; 342 Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers; 54 KC-135T Stratotankers; 18 Lockheed Martin MC-130H Combat Talon IIs; and 37 MC-130J Commando IIs. Even with the MC-130H/Js that are reserved for special mission duties, this is only about half of the capacity that the commander of the US Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) says is needed.