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John Merrill: Alabama welcomes chance to compete

For decades, Alabama workers have been at the forefront of supporting American warfighters. In January of this year, our support expanded as Lockheed Martin and Airbus announced the LMXT strategic tanker aircraft will be partly manufactured in Mobile, Alabama. It is exciting to know that Alabamians would play a key role in building this aircraft, which would support both military and humanitarian missions around the globe.

Introduced in September 2021, the LMXT is Lockheed Martin’s offering for the U.S. Air Force’s KC-Y “Bridge Tanker” program competition. The KC-Y competition would open the door for a superior refueling tanker to replace the Air Force’s fleet of aging KC-135 tankers and the Air Force could decide who will build the next round of tankers in late 2024 or early 2025, with deliveries starting in 2029. As James Taiclet, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin said at the announcement in January, “Establishing this production work in Alabama confirms Lockheed Martin’s commitment that the LMXT will be built in America, by Americans, for Americans.”

The LMXT would be built on the already successful Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) platform, which is currently in service with 13 U.S. allies across the globe. Once fully constructed, the LMXT will have the greatest flight range and carry the most fuel of any aerial tanker in the world. The manufacture of the baseline Airbus A330 aircraft would move to a new $400 million facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. This facility would employ more than three hundred direct workers but this investment in our economy hinges on the Air Force moving forward with a fair and open competition for the tanker.

For Alabama, the LMXT is an opportunity to strengthen job growth and manufacturing by drawing on the experience and talents of a high-tech Alabama workforce that has proven itself as a leader in aviation.

Alabamians are the hardest working folks in the country. From Huntsville to Mobile, our workers produce world class products that strengthen national security and ensure that our men and women in uniform are prepared for every mission. Alabama knows aerospace. The LMXT is another opportunity for our workforce to demonstrate its many talents and dedication to providing the best for our men and women in uniform.

I applaud the members of our congressional delegation for working together to get this project off the ground. We are counting on our elected leaders at the federal level to continue pushing for a fair and open competition for the next aerial refueling tanker.

John H. Merrill is currently serving as Alabama’s 53rd secretary of state