Northrop Grumman views the next long-range strike platform as a complementary aircraft rather than a replacement for its B-2 stealth bomber, so David Mazur, Northrop’s LRS vice president, told reporters in Washington Tuesday. He pointed out that USAF plans to keep its fleet of 21 B-2 bombers around until about 2060, while it must produce a new LRS aircraft by 2018. And, said Mazur, current plans call for this first new LRS platform to have less capability than the B-2. It would carry only some 25,000 pounds of weapons compared to the B-2’s 40K capacity, while its unrefueled flight range would be around 3,000 miles vs. 6,000 for the B-2. All in all, the Air Force plans to keep upgrading the B-2 for a number of years, and Mazur said Northrop is trying to keep those modifications affordable, say around $100 million to $300 million every few years. He also noted that the B-2 serves as an excellent foundation for the new LRS platform.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.