WEAPONRY AND EQUIPMENT: USAF Picks Northrop Grumman Bid for New Long Range Bomber

October 28, 2015 at 12:38 am Leave a comment

Next Generation Bomber.

Northrop Grumman has won the competition to build the next Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) for the U.S. Air Force, officials announced Tuesday (October 27) at the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials announce winner of Long Range Strike Bomber competition. Left to right: Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh (U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

Pentagon officials announce winner of Long Range Strike Bomber competition. Left to right: Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh
(U.S. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash)

The contract award —  calls for Northrop Grumman to produce 21 aircraft costing up to $550 million apiece(in 2010 dollars) — which translates to $606 million in today’s dollars. The Air Force plans to buy 100 aircraft in all, but later aircraft are expected to cost less under a as full rate production gets underway. The Air Force picked Northrop Grumman’s offering over one by a team consisting of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

B-52 Stratofortress (U.S. Air Force photo via wikipedia)

B-52 Stratofortress
(U.S. Air Force photo via wikipedia)

The LRS-B is designed to replace two of the Air Force’s aging bomber fleets — the Cold War era B-52 Stratofortresses, which are all over 50 years old and the supersonic B-1 Lancer bombers now over 30 years old. The B-2 Spirit stealthy bomber will still be flying into mid century.

According to the Air Force, the LRS-B provides the strategic agility to launch from the United States and strike any target, any time around the globe. The Air Force has said the aircraft could be optionally manned and the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh, called it a “dual capable bomber.”

The Air Force hopes to begin deploying the new bombers in the mid-2020s, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, said. Originally, the Air Force thought it would have deployable bombers by 2018 but then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates halted the program in 2009 because of skyrocketing costs driven by new and unproven technology, according to Defense One.

B-1B Lancer bomber (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

B-1B Lancer bomber
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

 

“A bid protest [by the losing team] seems inevitable,” says Defense News “given that LRS-B is the first major military aircraft acquisition program since the JSF [Joint Strike Fighter] award in 2001, and likely the last until the sixth-generation fighter [in the] next decade.” A lengthy protest period could delay the program’s start.

No Photos

“As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber,” said Wes Bush, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is playing it close to the vest  when it comes to disclosing details — how big, how much payload will it carry, how fast does it fly, even little ones like what the new aircraft is going to be called — besides the B-3. Officials did not release any photos of what the new bomber looks like — or may look like.

Back in 2012, Smithsonian Air & Space magazine asked your 4GWAR editor to imagine what the new aircraft might look like for a stand-alone, special edition. You can see what we — along with some aviation experts and illustrator Paul DiMare — envisioned the bomber of the future might look like.

You can see that image by clicking here.

Who knows, maybe in a year or so we might be seeing the LRSB itself and have a chance to see what we got wrong — or right.

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Entry filed under: Air Force, Aircraft, Asia-Pacific, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Technology, Washington, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , .

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