Jan. 31, 2022, © Leeham News: Assembly and conversion of the proposed LMXT refueling tanker for the US Air Force will be split between Mobile (AL) and Marietta (GA), Lockheed Martin (LMCO) announced today.
Airbus has final assembly plants for the A220 and A320 families in Mobile. LMCO has surplus facilities at its home in Marietta. A new final assembly plant and line will be required at Mobile. LMCO’s C-5 building in Marietta will be the site for the conversion and installation of military equipment.
“We will transition the assembly line for the A330s to the United States and transitioning all conversion lines from Spain to the United States,” said Larry Gallogly, director of the LMXT program. The A330 tooling and production lines moved to the US are for the A330ceo only; A330neo production remains in Toulouse. A330 MRTTs ordered by non-US customers will be assembled and militarized at the current facilities in Toulouse and Spain.
Gallogly said that assuming LMCO wins the contract, the first few LMXT aircraft will be built in Europe as Lockheed and Airbus prepare the US facilities. US workers will go to Europe to work alongside those workers to learn their jobs. About 1,300 new jobs will located at Mobile and Marietta.
“We’ll try to source as much of supply chain in America, recognizing the existing supply chain for MRTT,” Gallogly said. The A330 MRTT comes with either the Rolls-Royce or GE engines. Regardless of which engine LMXT chooses, the engine will be assembled in the United States, he said. When Airbus offered the A330 MRTT in the previous KC-X competition, the GE engine was the one offered to the Air Force.
The Air Force hasn’t definitely issued a timeline, Gallogly said that based on its discussions with the USAF, the draft Request for Proposal should be issued late this year and the final RFP issued in March or April next year. The contract award is likely to be issued in late 2024/early 2025. The Air Force wants uninterrupted recapitalization of tanker fleet, so delivery is targeted for the 2029/30 timeframe.
LMCO didn’t announce a definitive timeline to have the Mobile FAL up and running. It took about 18 months to build the A220 assembly building in Mobile, the most recent construction project completed. Gallogly said initially it will take about two years to build the first US-assembled tanker. As the learning curve improves, this timeline will reduce.
While LMCO says that based on its discussions with the USAF suggests a larger airplane is needed, Boeing at this point isn’t saying whether this is its understanding or whether it will offer a tanker larger than its KC-46A.
“Boeing is focused on the customer—what the Air Force needs and how Boeing can best deliver that capability. We are confident that the KC-46A continues to offer unmatched capability to the US Air Force,” Boeing said in a statement to LNA. “With 102 aircraft on order and growing international interest, Boeing’s KC-46A is proven and matured for the next stage of combat air refueling capabilities and airborne battle management, which will extend the Air Force’s ability to deliver critical fuel and information for decades to come.”
Separately, a Florida company and a trade group have joined to provide recycling services of 100% of aircraft, they announced last week.
Aries Aerospace and North American Aerospace Industries (NAAI) offers what they call the first-of-its-kind sustainable end-of-life aircraft services.
“The agreement assures 100 percent aircraft recycling, enabling the industry to advance its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals,” the company said.
‘There are thousands of abandoned aircraft all over the world, and the few that get torn down are only 75% recycled at best, with the rest going in landfills,” said Sven Koehler, CEO of NAAI. “Though we have a special focus on the aircraft in Roswell (NM), we have mobile teams ready to go anywhere in the world to recycle an aircraft.”
There are thousands of aircraft in storage throughout the world. Only a small number may return to service.
“The recycling process will include some of the recycled plastics going into the fabrication of plastic for new aircraft, taking the first step toward a circular, sustainable supply chain,” Aries and NAAI said. The two developed upcycling methods for “converting scrap materials into other products such as handbags, shoes, furniture, and watches. To further support the Social Responsibility aspect of ESG, the joint team is developing concepts for tiny homes and low-cost housing. NAAI and Aries are in talks with Habitat for Humanity to study how to use fuselages and other aircraft parts that might one day provide shelter for the indigent and homeless populations,” they said.
The United States continues to sort out the interaction between mobile telephone 5G technology and the effects on radio altimeters on commercial airliners.