Airbus and Lockheed Martin announce plans to build military tankers in Mobile

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Airbus and Lockheed Martin on Monday announced plans to build military tankers in Mobile. It’s something local and state leaders have been trying to achieve for more than a decade.

The announcement was made at Flight Works Alabama in the presence of several key figures, including Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Tommy Tuberville, Senator Richard Shelby and Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

The tanker aircraft is a variant of the Airbus 330 and will be used by the military to refuel tankers in the sky. The plan is to produce between 140 and 160. They would be assembled in Mobile and then sent to Georgia where the supply equipment would be installed.

“I think there are a lot of mayors who would give anything to make this happen in their city and I think that’s what I think,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “What a huge compliment to our staff, Team Mobile and Team Alabama to have this here today. It’s really exciting and there’s always been this lingering hope that one day we might be able to to be building a tanker and I think that was necessary for that to happen.

The final contract is still under review, but once approved, new tankers could start rolling off the production line as early as 2029. The plan is to repurpose a building on Airbus property that was previously used for the production of C-5.

“We’re going to start work and we’re hiring people now to prepare for the future, but ultimately we have to win the contract, build the FALS and deliver the planes,” said Jeff Knittel, president and CEO. CEO of Airbus Americas.

The contract would create approximately 1,300 jobs. The announcement comes more than a decade after a European company that hoped to build tankers here in the port city lost a $35 billion contract to Boeing.

“Look at where we are, look at the FALS we have, look at aircraft delivery, look at the number of employees. It’s not about what we’re going to do anymore, it’s about what we’ve done. We think that we will have the best tanker in the world,” says Knittel.

Production could start on tankers as early as 2023.

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