The US Air Force’s funding profile for development of the Northrop Grumman long-range strike bomber (LRS-B) has come down by $2.8 billion in the service’s latest budget proposal, which was submitted on 9 February.
Service officials say that while the sum being requested is much less than that sought from Congress between 2017 and 2020 in last year’s spending profile, its classified “programme content” remains the same.
The $80 billion programme to build 100 next-generation bombers was awarded to Northrop in October. Each aircraft will cost $564 million, according to US government estimates.
“All that’s happened is we’ve had a new cost estimate because we’ve had a competition,” explains USAF budget deputy Carolyn Gleason. “We’ve downselected, we have a winner, and we know that winner’s business strategy and technology strategy, so that’s purely an update to a cost estimate. The programme content is the same.”
The losing LRS-B bidding team – comprised of Boeing and Lockheed Martin – late last year protested Northrop’s selection. A decision by the US Government Accountability Office on whether to uphold or deny their appeal is due to be reached by mid-February.