Northrop Grumman. So says Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the Air Force leadership on Tuesday night, which is expected to top $55 billion over the life of the program. According to Defense News, “Northrop now has the Pentagon’s blessing to build a new fleet of aircraft to replace the Air Force’s aging B-52s and B-1s. As builder of the B-2 stealth bomber, Northrop beat out a joint Lockheed Martin-Boeing team in a closely watched competition that has lasted months longer than anticipated.”
The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) will undoubtedly incorporate stealthy characteristics, much like the B-2 Spirit bomber it will eventually replace, yet cost substantially less per plane. “LRS-B’s projected unit cost is higher compared to the B-1, but significantly lower relative to the $1.5 billion price tag of Northrop’s B-2, according to an Air Force handout. The expected development cost overall for LRS-B is also lower than for the B-2, at $23.5 billion,” according to Defense News.
Thus far the new plane has yet to be revealed to the public, even though Northrop Grumman unveiled a brand new web site touting the aircraft within hours after being awarded the contract. By choosing the Northrop-Grumman design over the one espoused by the Boeing-Lockheed-Martin team, the DoD maintains the traditional selection process fostered by the military-industrial complex, and likely keeps Northrop-Grumman afloat who might very well have had to look for a suitor to take over its flagging business should it have lost the contract.