The war machine will be developed under the Long Range Strike Bomber program by either Northrop Grumman or a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The winner, expected to be announced this fall, will build as many as 100 new aircraft at a total price tag of $55 billion.
Air Force is one to three months away from awarding the long-range strike #bomber contract— George Meyers (@TheMeyersGroup) 10 июля 2015
Boeing's McNerney: 'We're optimistic about winning USAF's Long-Range Strike Bomber selection this year.— Bill Carey (@carey_bill) 12 мая 2015
According to Axe, "that's a huge deal for the US military as it tries to compensate for [the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program] that has gone outrageously off the rails."
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the outcome of the JSF program, is "arguably too slow, too sluggish and too lightly armed to defeat the latest Russian- and Chinese-made fighters. … The F-35 is also prone to breakdowns, engine fires and software failures. It's years late and – at a total cost of more than $400 billion – way, way over budget," the analyst pointed out.
The F-35, which is still in its initial production and testing stage, was designed to replace an array of other US planes, including the F-16 and the A-10, but it cannot substitute a bomber. The stealth fighter has a range of 600 miles, while the US Air Force needs a plane that will have a range of 2,500 miles.
Not much has been made public with regard to the next-generation bomber. The warplane is expected to be capable of carrying tons of weapons and to have supreme stealth capabilities. According to some reports, it could even be operated as a drone for some missions.
Nevertheless, the Pentagon is already spending a lot of money on the new design and the funding will likely go through the roof. The development expenditure for the new bomber will increase from $1 billion in 2015 to more than $3 billion in 2018, and this trend will only be reinforced in the years to come, Axe observed.
@northropgrumman so is this your way of saying the Northrop Long-Range Strike Bomber design is gonna be another flying wing?— Sydney Freedberg (@SydneyFreedberg) 1 июня 2015
The Pentagon wants the first batch of new bombers to enter service in less than a decade. By that time the US will have "a huge number of F-35s plus a smaller force of old bombers that officials worry can't survive in a full-fledged war with Russia, China or another determined foe," the analyst noted.
USAF Gen. Welsh says plan is for the long-range strike bomber to begin replacing the B-2 in the mid-2020s.— Kingston Reif (@KingstonAReif) 18 Март 2015
This tight schedule could require more funds and to get them the Pentagon could very well cut additional funding for F-35s.