Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s newly announced teaming arrangement to compete to build the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber began with talks about a year ago, according to a Boeing spokesman. The two companies compared their approaches to the project and decided a teaming model like their previous one “made sense,” he said on Oct. 25. They then approached the Air Force with the idea to get the service’s blessing, which they received. Privately, industry officials over the last few months have said the teaming setup was in limbo until both sides had a chance to study the Air Force’s evolving requirements and timetable for the LRS-B. For several years, the companies have kept their bomber design teams intact with science and technology and risk-reduction money from the Air Force, but only to the tune of about $300 million a year. Service officials have suggested that the LRS-B program would get rolling next spring, but retired Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, the service’s former top uniformed acquisition officer, said at an AFA-sponsored conference in September, “I don’t think I’d look forward to a first quarter award,” due to budget sequestration. He warned contractors they might have to “bridge” until the Air Force has the money in hand for a concept definition contract. Air Force sources have said the service will not pursue a full-up competitive fly-off strategy, as happened with the F-22 and F-35, but will instead choose from paper concepts backed up by heavy proof-of-concept validation work, which may include subscale demonstrators.
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.