The secretary of the US air force expects that selection of Northrop Grumman for the Long-Range Strike Bomber programme will hold up to scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office following Boeing’s bid protest last week.

Speaking 10 November at the Dubai Air Show, Deborah Lee James said the source-selection process was very deliberate and based on multiple independent cost estimates that took into account more than just historical data.

The service issued a stop-work order to Northrop on 6 November after Boeing submitted a bid protest to the GAO, citing a “flawed” cost evaluation process and other concerns. A decision on the protest’s merit is due by 16 February, 2016, according to the bid protest docket.

“If they found certain discrepancies, they could ask that we redo some of the factors,” says James. “It would not necessarily be a new contract situation. It’s too early to say.”

Boeing along with its teammate Lockheed Martin say the “fundamentally flawed” selection process did not properly consider the team’s proposals to limit the bomber’s acquisition cost or its ability to execute the programme relative to Northrop.

Concerns have been raised that the selection relied too heavily on historical cost data, and didn’t fully consider advances in manufacturing processes since the costly Northrop B-2 project of the 1980s and ‘90s.


Northrop, which built the B-2A, naturally contends the LRS-B selection process was "exceptionally thorough and disciplined".

Northrop Grumman

“Although historical costing data was part of the process, it was more complex than that,” explains James. “It wasn’t that and that alone. We sought a variety of outside peer reviews, outside the programme office and outside the air force, and independent cost estimates – several of them.

“It has been my experience, more often than not, that [independent estimators] do have these pesky things called data and facts on their side.”

The last time Boeing protested a major aerospace contract, the air force’s KC-X award to the Northrop and EADS team was overturned and later secured by Boeing.

That 2008 aerial tanker contract was valued at more than $35 billion, whereas LRS-B is worth more than doubt that at $80 billion for development and production of 100 stealth bombers.