Yesterday afternoon, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III announced that Northrop Grumman had won its bid to be the builder of the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB), the Air Force’s replacement for its aging B-52 and B-1 bomber fleets. The initial $21 billion contract could end up bringing Northrop $80 billion over the next decade.
The LRSB is a key part of the Air Force’s modernization plans—the B-52 fleet is made up of aircraft that are over 50 years old, and the B-1 aircraft are over 20 years old. “Building this bomber is a strategic investment in the next 50 years and represents our aggressive commitment to a strong and balanced force,” Carter said, before turning the announcement over to the Air Force leaders (DOD video of the announcement is available here). “It demonstrates our commitment to our allies and our determination to potential adversaries, making it crystal clear that the United States will continue to retain the ability to project power throughout the globe long into the future.”
The initial $21 billion contract is for engineering and development of the LRSB. The second phase of the contract is a series of options to buy the first five production lots of the resulting aircraft—the first 21 bombers out of a projected final fleet of 100—at a cost of no more than $550 million per bomber (in 2010 dollars), though the initial cost per aircraft under Northrop’s proposal is $511 million.