Pontifications: Teaming with Lockheed Martin for the KC-Y tanker competition

Last in a Series

Jan. 10, 2022, © Leeham News: Sean O’Keefe retired from EADS/Airbus in 2014. Boeing won the re-bid contract for the US Air Force aerial refueling tanker in 2011. The third round of the tanker competitions was every bit as bitter as the second round, which Northrop Grumman/EADS won.

By Scott Hamilton

Boeing is in the process of producing 179 KC-46A tankers, with about half delivered. Beset by delays, technical issues, and cost overruns, Boeing nevertheless has the presumed advantage of being the incumbent supplier.

Lockheed Martin/Airbus will offer the A330-200-based MRTT tanker. Most have Rolls-Royce engines. The remainder has GE Aviation power plants. The LMXT, as the new tanker version is currently called, will be assembled in the US. If RR engines are chosen, these, too, will be assembled in the US, Lockheed says.

Although O’Keefe is no longer associated with Airbus and he is not a consultant to or otherwise advising Lockheed and Airbus, LNA asked him what he would advise if asked after benefitting from the Round 3 competition.

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Pontifications: Assessing the advantages Boeing, Lockheed Martin-Airbus have in KC-Y tanker competition

 Fourth in a Series

By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 3, 2022, © Leeham News: As the US Air Forces gears up to solicit bids for its KC-Y aerial refueling “bridge tanker” competition, Boeing is now the incumbent tanker supplier.

Having won the KC-X competition against Airbus, Boeing is supplying a total of 179 tankers based on the 767-200ER. The KC-46A, however, has been plagued with problems, delays, and cost overruns.

As the incumbent, Boeing would seem to have an advantage in the KC-Y competition. But on the other hand, the problems that Boeing has had in technical compliance categories, failures, and delivery delays, and foreign object debris issues, could work against it.

Sean O’Keefe was the president of EADS North America, Airbus’ parent when Boeing won the KC-X contract. He also worked for the government as the NASA administrator and on The Hill. He was friends with Bob Gates, the Secretary of Defense during parts of the Bush 43 and Obama administrations. This gives him a special insight from government and industry perspectives to weigh the advantages and disadvantages Boeing faces in the anticipated KC-Y contest that will likely pit the incumbent against the Lockheed Martin-Airbus team that will once again offer the A330-200-based tanker called the LMXT.

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Pontifications: Think tank analyzes KC-Y competitive landscape

Nov. 29, 2021, © Leeham News: A conservative think tank believes the US Air Force must invest not only in another round of aerial refueling tankers. It must also invest in infrastructure and future, innovative designs.

By Scott Hamilton

The Hudson Institute in Washington (DC) issued a study earlier this month in which it analyzed the Air Force’s global refueling requirements. The study may be downloaded here.

While perusing the website and looking at who’s involved with the institute makes it clear this isn’t just a conservative think tank but an overtly partisan one as well, the study appears well thought out and even-handed. It relies on well-reasoned data. The study is unlike Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, whose latest column about the next round of tanker procurement returns to the tiresome and expired whining about illegal subsidies for the Airbus A330-200.

Breaking news to Loren: the WTO case is over. Additional breaking news: subsidies and the WTO aren’t considered in military procurements. The Lexington Institute gets funding from Boeing. It also previously received funding from Lockheed. Thompson did not disclose in this latest missive if it still does.

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HOTR: Lockheed reveals tanker info: it’s all about America

Sept. 21, 2021, © Leeham News: Lockheed Martin (LMT) last week revealed its dedicated product launch web site page of the LMXT aerial refuel tanker. The LMXT uses the Airbus A330 MRTT as the platform for the US Air Force’s KC-Y competition for which initial information requests have been issued.

LMT and Airbus partnered in 2018 in anticipation of the KC-Y program, originally intended to replace the aging Boeing (nee McDonnell Douglas) KC-10. KC-Z was to follow, an entirely new concept in aerial refueling tankers.

KC-Y is now recast as a replacement for 140-160 Boeing KC-135s. It will be a follow-on to the original KC-X program, which was won by Boeing after three tries. Boeing has 179 orders for the 767-200ER-based KC-46.

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HOTR: When “Buy American” isn’t

By the Leeham News Team

Aug. 20, 2021, © Leeham News: President Biden’s “Buy American” policy means increasing the US content in things purchased by the federal government. Except when it doesn’t.

Biden announced the policy in July. LNA raised the prospect that the increasing US content requirements could make it difficult for Lockheed Martin and Airbus to offer an A330-200-based airplane for the US Air Force’s KC-Y Bridge Tanker.

LNA now has clarity on this. Under Biden’s Buy American policy, there are—as it turns out—some key exemptions.

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HOTR: Lockheed Martin’s LMXT rebranding has lots of competition

By the Leeham News Team

Aug. 12, 2021, © Leeham News: Lockheed Martin’s rebranding of the Airbus A330 MRTT aerial refueling tanker has some competition that already uses the name: LMXT.

The UK band LMXT.

LNA’s background includes branding. Other than the obvious “LM” means Lockheed Martin, we couldn’t see where “XT” comes from.

“XT” is on a lot of cars. The full acronym is on a warehouse management system, solar storage, a solar tube battery and a car charger.

A government in Maryland uses it as shorthand for Legacy Mixed-Use Transit Oriented Zone. It’s used for something called Lively Middleclass Xenial Tolerant (we can’t figure this one out.)

But our favorite is the acronym stands for Little Mix Tribute Rock Band, a UK group.

LNA can’t wait to see the band’s logo show up as nose art on the airplane formerly known as the A330 MRTT.

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Pontifications: Biden’s new “Buy American” policy may hit Lockheed Martin-Airbus plans to compete in KC-Y tanker bid

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 2, 2021, © Leeham News: A move by the Biden Administration may have unintended consequences in the KC-Y Bridge Tanker procurement by the US Air Force.

The Bridge Tanker is the Air Force’s second round to replace the aging Boeing KC-135 fleet. Between 140-160 airplanes will be purchased under KC-Y. The Air Force awarded a contract to Boeing in the previous KC-X procurement for 179 tankers based on the 767-200ER platform.

President Joe Biden announced last week that the US will adopt a rule under its Buy American policy that American content must be increased from 55% to 60% immediately and ultimately 75%.

If adopted, the rule appears to all but preclude an expected proposal by a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Airbus (LMA) to offer the KC-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). This is based on the A330-200 platform.

Lockheed Martin did not respond to a request for comment.

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HOTR: USAF prepares for new tanker competition, pitting Lockheed Martin/Airbus and Boeing against each other

By the Leeham News Team

June 22, 2021, © Leeham News: The US Air Force appears to be preparing a new round of competition for the next phase of its aerial refueling tanker recapitalization.

The first, KC-X, took more than 10 years to award a contract that didn’t get overturned. Boeing initially was awarded a lease deal in 2001 that was canceled in the wake of a scandal that sent two Boeing officers to jail and led to the resignation of CEO Phil Condit.

Round two pitted Boeing against Northrop Grumman and EADS, which was the name of the parent of Airbus’ commercial unit. Northrop won, but this award was overturned when USAF improprieties were revealed in the debriefing.

Round three pitted Boeing against EADS alone after Northrop bowed out. Boeing won this contract with a price 10% below EADS, which didn’t contest the decision. Boeing since has written off about $5bn on the KC-46A tanker, which still doesn’t work as required and which was delivered nearly two years late.

Related stories:

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Pontifications: Airbus-the First 50 Years

Book Review

By Scott Hamilton

July 8, 2019, © Leeham News: When a company authorizes or sponsors a book about some major event, the book is usually a puff piece meant for the coffee table in reception.

Airbus authorized the book, Airbus: The First 50 Years, but it’s no puff piece. It’s an honest, candid accounting of how the company came to be, navigating through country and corporate politics, face offs with rival Boeing, reporting the insider trading allegations and ending with the as-yet unfinished corruption scandal investigations.

Nicola Clark, the aerospace reporter for the International Herald Tribune, did a superb job up to her usual reporting standards while avoiding the puff pieces that usually come with an authorized book.

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Pontifications: 737 MAX events remind of Lockheed Electra story

By Scott Hamilton

March 18, 2019, © Leeham News: There’s a saying that history repeats itself.

When it comes to the crisis of the Boeing 737 MAX, I’m reminded of the crisis Lockheed faced in 1959-1960 when the Electra propjet crashed in September and the following March, killing all aboard both airplanes.

The Electra entered service Jan. 12, 1959, with Eastern Airlines. It was considered a pilot’s airplane. Coming off decades of piston engine aircraft and early in the jet age, the Electra was the only airplane that was over-powered, piston or jet. Timing, however, was poor and crashes soon overtook the euphoria.

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