Air Force Moves to Develop New Bomber
In a program so secret no one is sure how mature it is, the Air Force announced it was moving forward with competitive bidding to begin building the nation’s next generation of bombers.
"The new bomber is a top modernization priority for the Air Force and will provide the United States with the option to hold any target at risk at any point around the world,” the US Air Force stated in a July press release. Dubbed the Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, a request for proposal (RFP) was released to two pre-qualified industry teams on July 9.
In the press release, the U. S. Air Force revealed plans to purchase 80–100 LRS-B aircraft at a $550 million average unit procurement cost in base year 2010 dollars with an initial capability in the mid-2020s.
Defense One (7/9, Brewin) reported that the aircraft design may have been fully developed using classified funds. The two teams consist of Northrop Grumman facing off against a Lockheed-Martin/Boeing team.
Even more surprising is that the program may not be for a typical single-design aircraft “but is perhaps several aircraft working together.”
If this sounds like a stealth procurement for a stealth bomber, that fact is confirmed by Breaking Defense (7/10, Freedburg), which writes “The Long-Range Strike Bomber is supposed to be stealthy, like the current batwinged B-2, but faster and significantly cheaper.” In fact, the RFP may be “largely a formality rather than a real competition. But we simply don’t know.”
It has been so secret that, in fact, the announcement of the RFP was made to a select group of journalists prior to the press release, according to the Washington Post (7/11, Lamothe), who titled their piece “mysterious as ever.” The article reports that the funding profile supports an already-in-production program, with $258 M in FY 2013 that ramps-up to $3.4 B in 2019. “…prior development would also help explain how the Air Force intends to get the system from a Request for Proposals to initial operational capability in about 10 years, when equally or less-complicated systems like the F-22 and F-35 have taken more than 20.” The article also raises speculation that it might more about streamlining a major purchase out of the public eye, unlike the difficult tanker replacement program.
Other reporting included Bloomberg (7/10, Salant).
Published Date : 8/4/2014