The Air Force announced Tuesday that it has selected Northrop Grumman to build its Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), an innovative aircraft that will replace the unit’s out-of-date bomber fleet.
The contract is divided into two different parts. The first part is a cost-reimbursable contract for engineering and manufacturing costs. The deal, which features cost and performance incentives, has an estimated value of more than $21.4 billion in 2010 dollars, the Air Force said. Eventually, the Air Force would buy 100 of the new bombers valued at $550 million each in 2010 dollars. The contract awarded on Tuesday is for 21 bombers. No conversion was provided for what the contract would be value at in 2015 dollars.
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said the bomber is the Air Force’s top priority.
“We face a complex security environment. It’s imperative our Air Force invests in the right people, technology, capability and training to defend the nation and its interests – at an affordable cost,” James added.
The Air Force believes the bomber is needed to protect against the cutting-edge advanced air defense systems and surface to air missiles that will be built in the future. The LRS-B will have the capability of striking any target on the planet when being launched from the U.S.
“The LRS-B will provide our nation tremendous flexibility as a dual-capable bomber and the strategic agility to respond and adapt faster than our potential adversaries,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “We have committed to the American people to provide security in the skies, balanced by our responsibility to affordably use taxpayer dollars in doing so. This program delivers both while ensuring we are poised to face emerging threats in an uncertain future.”
Based on the independent cost estimates it has been quoted, the Air Force forecasts the average procurement unit cost per LRS-B will be roughly one-third of what the cost was for the B-1 stealth aircraft, one of the two bombers that the LRS-B will replace. The other bomber being supplanted is the famed B-52, some of which were built more than 50 years ago. A number of the B-1’s are more than 17 years old.
The Air Force thinks the estimate is achievable and that it could even be beaten if it keeps program requirements stable, according to Dr. William A LaPlante, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
“The program acquisition strategy has carefully integrated lessons learned from previous programs and considered all elements of life cycle costs in its design for affordability,” LaPlante added. “We are primed to deliver this capability in the most affordable, efficient way possible.”
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