The US Air Force is still working through the details of a contract award for the next-generation bomber, and expects an announcement on the final downselect in the next few months. The Pentagon is still deciding between proposals from Northrop Grumman, builder of the B-2 stealth bomber, and a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team.
The six-month delay in awarding the contract has already prompted lawmakers to cut $460 million from the program in fiscal 2016, Forbes said during the hearing. The Air Force stands to lose $100 million for each additional month the announcement is delayed, one congressional source said.
The Pentagon is planning to procure 80-100 LRS-Bs to replace the Air Force’s aging B-1 and B-52 bombers. Initial operating capability is slated for the mid-2020s, with nuclear certification planned two years after that.
However, lawmakers expressed concern during the hearing that 80-100 LRS-Bs is insufficient to replace the current fleet. The Air Force has 159 bombers in inventory today: 76 B-52s, 63 B-1s and 20 B-2s.
“We’re in the final closing phase and it’s going well and you should expect to hear something pretty soon,” William LaPlante, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said during an event hosted by Defense One on Tuesday.