Airbus and Lockheed Martin announced on Monday that they have formed a partnership to compete to produce tanker aircraft for the U.S. Air Force. Those tankers would be built at Airbus’s manufacturing plant in Mobile.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) praised the decision on Twitter.

“Folks, the United States has always been able to count on Alabama when it comes to national defense. I’m proud to join @AirbusInTheUS & @LockheedMartin today to announce they’re partnering together to build the LMXT tanker in @City_of_Mobile.” Ivey.

“I applaud Airbus and Lockheed Martin for choosing Mobile to produce an aircraft that is already known to be a proven solution for the Air Force,” Carl said. “I’m proud my colleagues in the Alabama delegation and I were able to work together and get this project moving so Alabama can continue supporting the defense needs of the United States.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) also praised the decision.

“I commend Airbus and Lockheed Martin for continuing to recognize Alabama’s commitment to excellence in manufacturing and engineering,” Shelby said. “Across the state, our workforce produces world-class products that serve to strengthen national security and maintain military readiness.  The LMXT is yet another opportunity to demonstrate our staunch devotion to the warfighter.  Alabama knows aerospace, and I trust Airbus and Lockheed to harness the talent Mobile has to offer to deliver the product our Air Force deserves.”

If the Airbus-Lockheed Martin LMXT aircraft is selected by the Air Force, Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor and base its LMXT offering on the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, which is currently in service with 13 U.S. allies around the world.  The baseline Airbus A330 aircraft will be built in Mobile, Alabama, and converted to the LMXT military tanker in Marietta, Georgia.  The A330ceo (current engine option) Final Assembly Line will involve the construction of a new $400 million facility located at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley with more than 300 direct employees.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the competition is expected in 2023, with the projection that the Air Force will award the contract in 2024.

The LMXT is an Air Force-unique platform, building on the proven airframe of the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) tanker that serves 13 nations today.  The tanker aircraft is already proven and capable, as it has been refueling U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps aircraft in combat since 2015.  Further, the LMXT has the greatest flight range, carries the most fuel of any tanker in the world, and completes automated aerial refuelings – giving the U.S. Air Force even more capability.

Airbus had previously sought the Air Force tanker contract during the Obama Administration for a tanker to be built in Mobile. Airbus won that competition; but Boeing used its considerable lobbying presence in Washington to have the results of that competition overturned. Boeing then was awarded the contract in a very controversial decision. Airbus then made the decision to build its first North American passenger jet manufacturing facility in Mobile at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex.

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