Pentagon moves on new long-range bomber

The Defense Department has been holding discreet talks with major military contractors on plans to develop a new generation of long-range nuclear bombers, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.

The Pentagon would like to see the new fleet of nuclear-capable bombers in place no later than the middle of the next decade. It would number between 80 to 100 aircraft that could be flown remotely or by a human pilot.

The youngest long-range bombers in the current U.S. nuclear arsenal are more than 10 years old.

Ashton Carter, the Defense Department's head of acquisition, has spoken individually with officials from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, department spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said. The three defense contractors are expected to battle for the $55 billion bomber order.

"Northrop Grumman employees in California designed, produced, and currently maintain the nation's newest bomber in the U.S. Air Force fleet, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber," Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said. "Our people and capabilities ... stand ready to assist the Defense Department and the U.S. Air Force in meeting the nation's future requirements for the long-range-strike mission."

A Boeing representative said the aerospace giant "will compete in the bomber competition," while Lockheed Martin declined a request for comment.

Proposals to pay for the next generation of long-range strike aircraft are being developed amid a cost-slashing mood in Washington. Although he has instructed the Pentagon to rein in expenses, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has on several occasions called for a new fleet of nuclear-ready aircraft.

"It is important that we begin this project now to ensure that a new bomber can be ready before the current aging fleet goes out of service," Gates told journalists in 2010.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., favors the bomber initiative.

"The Air Force and the Defense Department have made clear that replacements are needed for America's aging bomber fleet and that long-range strike [capability] should be a priority," McKeon staffer John Noonan said. "The chairman concurs with their assessment."

The Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget request includes $197 million to support development operations for the new system. A total of $3.7 billion is to be spent over the next half-decade, according to Maj. Chad Steffey, an Air Force spokesman.

"The Defense Department is serious about doing this program," said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "The last time they tried to upgrade their bomber force, they bought 21 B-2s. That's not nearly enough to modernize the fleet."

The Air Force currently has 20 B-2 bombers, 66 B-1 bombers manufactured in the 1980s, and 85 B-52 bombers that date to the 1960s and have been refurbished.

"The Air Force believes it's overdue for an upgrade," said Harrison, who noted that the service could already be paying for the aircraft's development through its secret $12.6 billion "black" budget for the creation of new weapons.

Gates has said that the bomber would employ "proven technologies, an approach that should make it possible to deliver this capability on schedule and in quantity."

Such statements have led numerous military observers to speculate that the next-generation aircraft would have physical similarities to the radar-evading, remote-controlled aircraft that are already in use.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.