Boeing, with its partner Lockheed Martin, officially informed the Air Force on Friday that it would protest the service’s award of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program—potentially worth up to $80 billion—to Northrop Grumman. The Government Accountability Office now has 100 days to evaluate the protest and determine if it has merit. Boeing, in a press statement, suggested it offered a lower price on the program and questioned Northrop Grumman’s technical and financial ability to carry the program out. The selection process was “fundamentally flawed,” Boeing said. “The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform, as required by the solicitation.” According to the statement, the award to Northrop Grumman was a mistake, because the Boeing team offers “the best LRS-B at a cost that uniquely defies the prohibitively expensive trends of the nation’s past defense acquisitions.” Boeing has used this tactic before: in 2008, it protested the Air Force’s award of the KC-X tanker program to European Aeronautic Defense Systems (now Airbus), then partnered with Northrop Grumman, and was successful in overturning the award, getting the competition re-opened, and winning the restructured contest in 2011.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.