Defense News on October 25, 2013, reported that Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the two largest defense companies in the world, are teaming up on the US next-generation bomber. Excerpts below:
The companies announced a teaming effort for the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber program. Boeing will be the prime contractor, while Lockheed will act as primary teammate.
“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,” Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said in a joint statement.
Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said, “We’re confident that our team will meet the well-defined system requirements and deliver a world-class next-generation Long Range Strike Bomber to the US Air Force within the budget and timeframe required.”
Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, has consistently said his top three priorities are the KC-46 tanker replacement, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the bomber program. Boeing produces the KC-46, while Lockheed is the prime on the F-35. A bomber win would give the two companies dominance over the next three decades of Air Force systems.
This is the second time the two companies have come together on the next-generation bomber.
The team would combine Boeing’s bomber experience, including maintenance and upkeep, with Lockheed’s stealth experience. Even so, Northrop may still be in the lead position, given its experience with the stealthy B-2 Spirit and an early, aggressive campaign that included a three-story tall poster at this year’s Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md.
Air Force officials have indicated that the bomber program will be built primarily off of existing technologies, although what that might mean is unclear. Only general details of the heavily classified program have emerged. It will likely be optionally manned and will certainly have stealth capabilities, potentially drawn from the F-22 Raptor and F-35.
The bombers are expected to enter service in the mid-2020s and cost about $550 million each, with a potential buy of up to 100. The program has been largely unaffected by sequestration because the funding streams are relatively small in the coming years, according to Air Force officials.