Bomber Plans

The Air Force has not quite “settled on the exact acquisition strategy” for the Long-Range Strike Bomber, service Undersecretary Eric Fanning told reporters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. However, the competition “in place right now” for the LRS-B “is . . . pretty substantial.” Secretary Deborah Lee James recently announced the program would go out for bid by the end of the year. “Those that are teeing up to bid” have invested heavily in the LRS-B, Fanning said. Industry sources have suggested that the competing teams of Boeing/Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have produced subscale demonstrators of the aircraft at their own expense. The Air Force is holding to a flyaway cost of $550 million each as “a pretty firm chalkline,” and Fanning said it has helped the service and contractors maintain requirements discipline. He allowed that “there are a number of people who think it’s too low of a number and we’re not going to get the requirements out of the bomber that we need,” but USAF is “hewing . . . pretty hard to that number.” Fanning also told the Daily Report the LRS-B depends on “enablers” that have been little discussed. “I hate that term,” he said, “because it sounds like it’s a ‘nice to have’ item. And it’s not. It’s necessary.” He said USAF will soon be “more transparent” about the bomber, but it will take longer to discuss the “enablers.”