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Opinion | Air Force should embrace competition

Poarch Creek Tribal members, and Alabamians alike, could have the opportunity to build aircraft for our men and women in uniform.

Lockheed Martin's LMXT Tanker. (VIA LOCKHEED MARTIN)

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) is a sovereign nation with our own system of government, and the only federally recognized Tribe in the state of Alabama. PCI is an active partner in the state, contributing to economic, educational, social, and cultural initiatives benefiting both our nations and our neighbors in local communities and nearby towns.

As Chairwoman of the Tribe, I am proud of the economic investment that we have made in Alabama. From the development of retail businesses to our award-winning tourism and hospitality properties, our goal is to grow our economic footprint while making Alabama a better place to live, work, and play. 

I am proud of our economic diversity, especially our focus on investing in the government contracting and manufacturing sectors of business. We are honored to support Alabama’s growing aerospace industry through PCI Aviation and Muskogee Technology, subsidiaries of PCI Federal Services. Since Alabama is one of the top locations in the world for aspiring individuals to launch a career in aviation, we see the value in partnerships such as the one between Lockheed Martin and Airbus to produce their version of an aerial refueling tanker, the LMXT. This investment in our State’s economy hinges on the Air Force moving forward with the KC-Y competition, a planned competition for their next tanker. The Request for Proposal is expected in 2023, with the projection that the Air Force will award the contract in 2024.

The heart of the LMXT is Airbus’s already successfully A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport platform, or MRTT, that is in service with our European allies today. Recently, Airbus announced that their automated boom transfer system is the only certified automated air-to-air refueling boom in the world. This state-of-the-art, proven design would be the cornerstone of the LMXT and produced proudly by Alabamians.

Lately, the Air Force has started to walk back on the planned competition. Thankfully, Senators Richard Shelby and Tommy Tuberville, along with Congressman Jerry Carl and Mike Rogers, have been leading the charge encouraging the Air Force to move forward with the KC-Y competition allowing Alabamians the opportunity to compete. Competition is the best method to contain costs and deliver on value. A reliable aerial refueling tanker that can supply our forces in the air with on-demand fuel is critical. At a time of increased global tension, when our aerial forces are fielding fifth generation fighters all over the world, our tanker fleet cannot continue operating obsolete platforms with persistent delays and cost overruns. 

It is inspiring to think that if the Air Force moves forward with the KC-Y competition, Poarch Creek Tribal members, and Alabamians alike, could have the opportunity to play a vital role in building this aircraft for our men and women in uniform. An Alabama built tanker that delivers on its promised performance would make our nation safer and more secure while creating job opportunities for skilled Alabamians.  Our men and women in uniform deserve the best that we have to offer, and Alabama businesses have a proven history that we can deliver. Now more than ever, the Air Force needs to follow through. Thank you Senators Shelby and Tuberville along with Representatives Carl and Rogers for always speaking out on the needs of Alabama and our nations’ defense. 

Stephanie Bryan serves as Chairwoman of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama

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