Earlier this evening at a Pentagon press conference, the United States Air Force announced the result of the long-awaited Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) competition. The Air Force has awarded the LRS-B contract to Northrop Grumman, manufacturer of the Air Force Global Strike Command‘s B-2 Spirit bomber. The service is expected to procure 100 airframes with a tentative target for IOC in the mid-2020s.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter prefaced the announcement by saying the “LRS-B will support America’s defense strategy by forming the backbone of the Air Force’s future strike and deterrent capabilities. Today the Air Force leadership is… taking another step towards fielding an aircraft that will deliver capabilities across the full range of military operations against the most technologically advanced opponents.”
Though many details about the LRS-B remain in the dark, it is expected to carry both conventional and nuclear payloads, and field ISR as well as electronic attack capabilities. Low-observable characteristics are a certainty, and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stressed the importance of the LRS-B’s ability to survive in a high-threat, anti-access and area denial environment.
Adaptable, flexible, survivable, and affordable are the key words surrounding the LRS-B. It will draw upon use of mature systems and technologies as opposed to new developments, which will help keep costs in line – one of the main tenants of the program. The aircraft will also incorporate an open architecture, easing the process and costs associated with upgrading the fleet as it matures as a weapons system.
Though explicitly stated as not being a factor in the decision, this announcement will keep all the major aerospace defense firms in play for decades to come: Lockheed-Martin with the F-35, Boeing with the KC-46, and now Northrop Grumman with the LRS-B.
(Featured image: Northrop Grumman)