The Air Force is in the market for another 140-160 aerial refueling tankers to add to the 179 it already plans to order from Boeing. There will likely be a competition for the next increment between Boeing’s KC-46 Pegasus and a Lockheed Martin alternative dubbed LMXT. Boeing thinks it will have important advantages in the comparisons. First, Air Force leaders have expressed confidence in the Boeing tanker, which is performing well in deployments. Second, the KC-46 may be better suited to basing in the Western Pacific than the much bigger LMXT. Third, although LMXT is a newer plane, both offerors are prepared to introduce new technologies into their tankers if the Air Force so desires. Fourth, with 65 KC-46s already delivered, it will be much less expensive for the Air Force to continue with a pure fleet than to duplicate support functions for two different tankers. Fifth, LMXT faces much greater challenges in being ready for deliveries at the end of the decade than Boeing would in continuing the KC-46 line. Finally, Boeing’s tanker is built in the U.S. using domestic suppliers, whereas LMXT is based on a European jetliner that would modified in the U.S. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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