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Boeing, Raytheon submit bids for major USAF weapon contract

Boeing and Raytheon have confirmed submitting proposals to the US Air Force for a contract to build its next major precision-guided munition.

The air force is scheduled to award the small diameter bomb increment II (SDB II) contract in May 2010. The winner must finish off development and deliver the first operational system in 2014.

The USAF plans to field the SDB II on the Boeing F-15E in fiscal year 2014 and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in FY2016, although the latter date depends on the availability of test aircraft, acquisition documents say.

Launching the source selection process caps a nearly seven-year-old acquisition effort.

The USAF selected Boeing in 2003 to build the SDB I, a 113kg (250lb)-class precision bomb. The original plan also called for Boeing to develop SDB II, which adds a wing-kit for extended-range and a tri-mode seeker to strike moving targets in all weather conditions.

The SDB II strategy had been sidetracked by a major acquisition scandal. Darleen Druyun, a former top USAF acquisition official, admitted in court to selecting Boeing for the SDB contract in return for personal favours, such as employment for her daughter. As a result, the service split its SDB I and SDB II programmes into separate contracts in 2006.

Boeing continued building the SDB I weapon under its original USAF contract. Meanwhile, the company teamed with former rival Lockheed to compete for SDB II. Raytheon also decided to compete for the new contract, leveraging its experience on tri-mode seekers gained from the US Army's precision attack missile programme.

The competing teams have each completed a 42-month risk reduction phase, culminating in captive carry and component-level demonstrations.

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