Lockheed and Airbus Pick Arkansas for Production of Aerial Refueling System

Lockheed and Airbus Pick Arkansas for Production of Aerial Refueling System
A Lockheed Martin LMXT tanker aircraft refuels another plane using its aerial boom system. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland and the European aerospace corporation Airbus on Wednesday announced plans for a facility in Arkansas where the aerial refueling boom system used by a new aircraft will be produced.

The companies said the project will be located in the western part of the state but an exact location had yet to be determined. The facility would make the refueling system used by the LMXT aircraft, Lockheed Martin's offering for the U.S. Air Force's KC-Y strategic tanker program. The plane, introduced in September, is built on the design of the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport.

Lockheed Martin spokesperson Stephanie Stinn said the project would create 60-100 jobs, but the work is contingent on the company landing an Air Force contract for the LMXT. She said the Air Force is reviewing its current tanker fleet to assess its needs for future missions. The next step for the Air Force would be to issue a request for proposal.

"Today’s announcement is a commitment by Lockheed Martin and Airbus to build the LMXT’s boom in western Arkansas should a contract award be secured," Stinn said.

The refueling boom system is a "vital aspect of the overall LMXT offering," C. Jeffrey Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas, said in a news release. The companies are expanding operations in Alabama and Georgia to support future production of the aircraft. The facility in Arkansas would be part of the second and final phase of the manufacturing process.

According to Lockheed, the LMXT provides significantly improved range and fuel offload capacity over current tankers.

The project would expand Lockheed's presence in Arkansas, where it already employs more than 1,000 people at its missile manufacturing, test and storage operation in Camden. It would be Airbus' first operation in the state.

"Given the undisputed importance of the U.S. Air Force's strategic refueling mission, ensuring the LMXT is equipped with critical and relevant technologies for its refueling system is of paramount importance," James Taiclet, Lockheed chairman and CEO, said in the release. "Like the LMXT airframe, this refueling system is proven and low-risk, translating to known and added capabilities for the U.S. Air Force. With this commitment, Arkansas' manufacturing community has the opportunity to contribute to building America's next strategic tanker."

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission said there were no state incentives for the project.

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