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Pentagon Upgrading Aging Stealth Bomber Fleet With Northrop Grumman Contract

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Northrop Grumman is set to build Air Force's Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) after being awarded with the contract from Pentagon.

Valued at almost $60 billion, the deal was to build 100 units of the aircraft which would start to enter the service in 2020. The new planes will succeed the current fleet of aging bombers that are now being utilized in the service.

"The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation's security," said Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman's chairman, chief executive officer and president. "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."

Based on the cost-estimates that have been outlined in the contract, each LRS bomber will cost $511 million in 2010 dollars which easily meets the threshold of $550 million that was allotted by the Pentagon.

The plane will be Air Force's first new bomber since the Cold War and will also be one of the biggest weapons system in the U.S. of the next decade.

"There was a David and Goliath situation going on," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at Teal Group. "This is disappointing for Lockheed Martin, pretty bad for Boeing, but transformational for Northrop Grumman."

Determined to win the award, Northrop had actually run an advertisement in some markets during the Super Bowl event where it touted its legacy in aerospace industry.

In the meantime, the team at Boeing and Lockheed Martin had expressed their disappointment and had even hinted on not ruling out a protest.

"We are interested in knowing how the competition was scored in terms of price and risk, as we believe that the combination of Boeing and Lockheed Martin offers unparalleled experience, capability and resources for this critically important recapitulation program," said the two companies.

William LaPlante, the top acquisition official at Air Force, gave out an independent cost estimate of $564 million for each plane in 2016 dollars, an amount which he believes as "reasonable and achievable."

The new plane is set to join the B-2 and will become the successor to the Eisenhower-era B-52 and the 37-year old B-1. According to the Air Force, they want a durable and stealthy plane that is designed to fly deep into the territory of the enemy in order to attack targets that are hidden or mobile.

"Performance details on the new bomber are quite scarce, though we do know that the LRSB will be stealth, capable of carrying nuclear-tipped munitions and feature a mix of new and existing technologies," said LaPlante.

Photo: Mariordo Camila Ferreira & Mario Duran | Wikimedia Commons

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