USAF’s Next Strategic Tanker to Have Increased Range and Advanced Communications

The LMXT strategic refueling aircraft could become USAF's future bridge tanker 6 photos
Photo: Lockheed Martin
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As the U.S. Air Force fighter and bomber jet fleet continue to evolve, so must its tanker aircraft. Air refueling has proved to be a huge strategic asset for military forces, and the future tankers must be able to combine top-of-the-line refueling capabilities with highly advanced display equipment for better integration into the battlespace.
Lockheed Martin has unveiled the LMXT, its proposal for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) KC-Y Program, meant to develop “America’s next strategic tanker”. USAF officially announced the competition earlier in June, with the objective of completing its fleet with a bridge tanker, which will fill the gap between the existing KC-X and the future Advanced Air Refueling Tanker referred to as KC-Z.

Lockheed Martin already has an extensive history of making tanker and cargo aircraft for various U.S. military forces, and it’s now using that experience to get to the next level. LMXT aims to be the most advanced aerial refueling aircraft, with innovative features and upgraded capabilities.

The LMXT is based on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which has the advantage of proven combat record for both boom and hose-and-drogue refueling operations, having logged more than 250,000 flight hours refueling U.S and allied aircraft. It’s compatible with fighter, transport, and maritime patrol aircraft, and it’s equipped with a combat-proven camera and vision system.

In addition to the proven fly-by-wire boom, the new strategic tanker delivers an increased endurance of 19.5 hours and an increased fuel capacity of 271,700 lbs (123,2 kg). It also claims to be equipped with the world’s first fully automatic boom/air-to-air refueling (A3R) system. The advanced multi-domain operations node improves situational awareness and keeps the LMXT connected to the battlespace.

Like all advanced aircraft, the future strategic tanker is also designed to be versatile enough for future developments, and it integrated upgraded communications for joint all-domain command and control (JADC2 systems).

According to USAF, the final Request for Proposal for the Bridge Tanker will be issued by the end of next year.

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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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