Aug. 30—U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, joined Alabama's two Republican senators this week in calling for an open competition for the U.S. Air Force's next aerial fuel tanker contract, which Lockheed Martin is hoping to win.
Lockheed's LMXT plane, if given the nod, would be partially constructed at the firm's Marietta plant and could add upwards of 1,000 jobs to the 5,000 already employed there, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a January promotional event.
The LMXT is a joint project with Airbus. The plane would initially be constructed at Airbus' Mobile, Alabama factory and finished in Marietta.
Warnock co-signed a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for an open bid process with U.S. Sens. Tommy Tuberville and Richard Shelby of Alabama.
"We agree with many senior Department of Defense officials, including Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, that competition is critical to ensuring the best quality and cost for defense acquisitions. Competition is important to driving innovation and to ensuring both our nation's servicemembers and taxpayers are best served by the defense procurement processes," the letter reads.
The current Air Force contract for aerial fuel tankers — which refuel other jets mid-flight — is held by Boeing, which has entered its own competing aircraft.
Warnock's letter doesn't specifically mention the LMXT, but Air Force officials have said "the likelihood of a competition has come down," with the military inclined to simply update its planes already in service.
"As Air Mobility Command defines requirements and you continue your deliberations for this program, we encourage the Department of Defense to proceed with a competition for the KC-Y program to ensure the best platform can be identified to address the important need," the senators wrote, KC-Y referring to the project name.
The trio of senators aren't the first to lobby for an open competition. State legislators from Cobb drafted an open letter urging federal officials to "use a fair and open, value-based competition" in July, and Gov. Brian Kemp argued for the same in a June guest column in the MDJ.