Boeing and Lockheed Martin on Friday said they have teamed up to bid for a new US$55 billion US Air Force bomber program aimed at replacing the aging bomber fleet.
Boeing is acting as the prime contractor, and Lockheed is the main teammate in the bid to supply the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber program, the companies said in a joint statement.
“Boeing and Lockheed Martin are bringing together the best of the two enterprises, and the rest of industry, in support of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program, and we are honored to support our US Air Force customer and this important national priority,” Boeing Defense, Space & Security president and chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said.
Air force spokesman Ed Gulick said the program aims to build between 80 and 100 of the new, long-range stealthy bombers.
“The LRS-B program is a top modernization priority for the Air Force and critical to our national security. The Air Force looks forward to working with all participating industry partners on this very important program,” he said.
The cost of each plane is about US$550 million, he said, putting the total value of the program if all 100 planes are built at US$55 billion.
Deliveries are due to begin in the mid 2020s, “before the current aging fleet goes out of service,” Muilenburg said.
Shares in Dow member Boeing jumped 1.7 percent and Lockheed’s stock rose 1 percent.
The air force has two programs, the B-1 and the B-2, aimed at replacing the aging B-52s, but they were wracked with heavy cost overruns. The air force bought only 20 of Northrop Grumman’s B-2s, the newest long-range bomber in its fleet.
For the development of the new bomber, the air force budgeted US$292 million in fiscal year 2013 that ended on Sept. 30, and US$379 million in the current fiscal 2014.
Both Boeing and Lockheed currently have projects underway for the US Air Force. Boeing, which built the B-52 fleet, is developing the KC-46 refueling tanker and Lockheed is working on the newest stealth F-35 fighter jet.
“The team will be able to produce unique and affordable solutions that could not be achieved without partnering,” they said.
In 2011, then-US secretary of defense Robert Gates launched the next-generation bomber project.
According to the Pentagon, the new bomber should be designed using “proven technologies” to create a long-range, nuclear-capable and optionally remotely piloted aircraft that will be able to operate and survive in highly contested areas densely protected by air defenses.
Despite the sharp “sequester” spending cuts for the Pentagon and a protracted budget battle in Washington, “the bomber program will go forward as planned,” Lexington Institute defense consultant Loren Thompson said.
The US has fewer than 200 long-range bombers, with an average age of 30 years, he said.