- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a lucrative contract by the Department of Defense that will see the Virginia-headquartered contractor supply the Air Force with the military’s first fleet of stealth Long Range Strike Bombers, or LRS-Bs.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that Northrop Grumman has won the rights to develop and build the next-generation aircraft, beating out a bid placed by a team composed of engineers from Boeing Co.and Lockheed Martin Corp. for the Defense Department’s biggest contract in a decade.

“The LRS-B is critical to national defense and is a top priority for the Air Force,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “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.”

The Air Force has described the LRS-B as a “long range, highly survivable bomber” that can evade stealth detection and launch and “provides the strategic agility to launch from the United States and strike any target, any time around the globe.” 

The final price-tag on the program will be dependent on the number of aircraft built, along with scheduling and other factors, but the Pentagon said independent estimates suggest the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the project could cost $21.4 billion.

Once that portion is complete, the contract provides for Northrop Grumman to then build 21 new stealth bombers to begin replacing the military’s aging fleet of B-52 and B-1 warplanes, the likes of which are expected to be ready by 2025. From there, the Pentagon could elect to order as many as 100 new bombers in all, putting the full cost of the program close to $80 billion.

“The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation’s security,” Wes Bush, the chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman, said in a statement. “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.”

Northrop raised its earnings per share forecast for the year on Wednesday, and the Los Angeles Times reported that the contract could mean the creation of 1,400 new jobs at its facility in Palmdale, California.

“Our team has the resources in place to execute this important program, and we’re ready to get to work,” Mr. Bush said.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, meanwhile, said on Tuesday that they’re curious as to why their bid was rejected, with the former vowing to “rigorously deliberate whether to protest” the award — a decision that could delay the program for 100 days.

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