Lockheed Martin Corp. hasn't ruled out bidding on a contract to supply air tankers to the Air Force, Chief Executive Robert Stevens said Wednesday.
The chief executive's comments are a change from Lockheed Martin's previous public statements, in which the defense contractor has said it has no interest in challenging Boeing Co. for the new tanker fleet.
"We don't have any opportunities to discuss today. Should one arise, we'll evaluate it thoroughly," Stevens said in an appearance at the firm's Owego, N.Y., facility. Reporters listened in via conference call.
Boeing is still the leading contender for the Air Force contract, even though a proposed $23 billion, 100-tanker deal fell through. That plan fell apart after Darleen Druyun, a former top Air Force procurement official, admitted giving Boeing special treatment. Congress has ordered the Pentagon to scrap a proposed leasing arrangement.
Now Pentagon officials are studying the issue and reviewing their options. Next year, they will announce how to proceed and whether they will open the door to new entrants.
Stevens also noted the company's relationships with foreign suppliers.
The European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., parent company of Airbus, has said it wants to find a U.S. partner to put together its own tanker bid. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Corp. both have relationships with EADS.
Lockheed Martin, which is based in Bethesda, Md., recently announced that EADS would supply radars for the Littoral Combat Ship in development for the U.S. Navy. Also, Lockheed Martin is basing its Marine One presidential helicopter bid on an aircraft built by AgustaWestland, part of Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica SpA .
Shares of Lockheed Martin closed at $55.89, up $1.78, or 3.3 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.