WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force’s acquisition chief said on Friday he expects the Air Force to announce the winner of a hard-fought competition to build a new long-range strike bomber in one to two months.
Northrop Grumman Corp, maker of the B-2 bomber, is competing against a team of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp to build 80 to 100 new LRS-B aircraft for the Air Force at a fixed price of no more than $550 million each.
William LaPlante, speaking to reporters after a speech hosted by the Air Force Association, gave no details but said the source selection for the new bomber was going well.
He said his focus was ensuring the decision was carefully thought through and justified, rather than meeting a deadline to announce the decision.
“It’s only done when it’s really done,” LaPlante said. “What I care about and everybody cares about, is that it’s done right.”
LaPlante said the Air Force planned a modular approach to the new bomber that would allow future competitions for open upgrades and operations and maintenance of the new planes.
He said the Air Force had sought to be transparent with industry about its requirements for the plane, although the overall competition is classified.
Asked about concerns that the contract award could have a negative effect on the losing team, LaPlante said the Air Force always consider broad industrial base issues in making contract awards. It factors in foreign military sales prospects, existing work on classified and unclassified programs and which anticipated contract awards were on the horizon.
“It’s a much bigger issue than any one program,” LaPlante said. “All we can do is make sure that we don’t inadvertently, by something we control, all of a sudden push someone completely out of the market.”
LaPlante said he was not overly concerned about congressional moves to dock $460 million in funding for the new bomber program in fiscal 2016 due to a delay in the contract announcement from earlier this spring, when it was initially expected.
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler