Northrop wins long range strike bomber con­tract

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The US Air Force re­cently an­nounced the con­tract award of engi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing de­vel­op­ment and early pro­duc­tion for the long-range strike bomber, or LRS-B, to Northrop Grum­man Corp.

“Over the past cen­tury, no na­tion has used air power to ac­com­plish its global reach – to com­press time and space – like the United States,” De­fense Sec­re­tary Ashton Carter said dur­ing a Pen­tagon brief­ing an­nounc­ing the con­tract. “To­day, it’s vi­tal to in­no­vate and rein­vest in the peo­ple, strate­gies and tech­nolo­gies that will al­low Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary to be dom­i­nant in the sec­ond aero­space cen­tury. I’ve made such in­no­va­tion a hall­mark of my com­mit­ment to the fu­ture of Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary.

“Build­ing this bomber is a strate­gic in­vest­ment in the next 50 years, and rep­re­sents our ag­gres­sive com­mit­ment to a strong and bal­anced force,” Carter con­tin­ued. “It demon­strates our com­mit­ment to our al­lies and our de­ter­mi­na­tion to po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries, making it crys­tal clear that the United States will con­tinue to re­tain the abil­ity to project power through­out the globe long into the fu­ture.”

Air Force Sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah Lee James said the LRS-B is crit­i­cal to na­tional de­fence and is a top pri­or­ity for the Air Force. “We face a com­plex se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment,” she said. “It’s im­per­a­tive our Air Force in­vests in the right peo­ple, tech­nol­ogy, ca­pa­bil­ity and train­ing to de­fend the na­tion and its in­ter­ests – at an af­ford­able cost.”

The fu­ture threat will evolve through the in­tro­duc­tion of ad­vanced air de­fence sys­tems and de­vel­op­ment of more ca­pa­ble sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems. The LRS-B is de­signed to re­place the Air Force’s age­ing fleets of bombers – rang­ing in age from 50+ years for the B-52 to 17+ years for the B-2 – with a long-range, highly sur­viv­able bomber ca­pa­ble of pen­e­trat­ing and op­er­at­ing in tomorrow’s anti-ac­cess, area de­nial en­vi­ron­ment. The LRS-B pro­vides the strate­gic agility to launch from the United States and strike any tar­get, any time around the globe.

“The LRS-B will pro­vide our na­tion tremen­dous flex­i­bil­ity as a dual-ca­pa­ble bomber and the strate­gic agility to re­spond and adapt faster than our po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries,” said Gen­eral Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. “We have com­mit­ted to the Amer­i­can peo­ple to pro­vide se­cu­rity in the skies, bal­anced by our re­spon­si­bil­ity to af­ford­ably use tax­payer dol­lars in do­ing so. This pro­gramme de­liv­ers both while en­sur­ing we are poised to face emerg­ing threats in an un­cer­tain fu­ture.”

The LRS-B con­tract is com­posed of two parts. The con­tract for the engi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing de­vel­op­ment, or EMD, phase is a cost-re­im­bursable type con­tract with cost and per­for­mance in­cen­tives. The in­cen­tives min­imise the con­trac­tor’s profit if they do not con­trol cost and sched­ule ap­pro­pri­ately. The in­de­pen­dent es­ti­mate for the EMD phase is $21.4 bil­lion in 2010 dol­lars.

The sec­ond part of the con­tract is com­posed of op­tions for the first five pro­duc­tion lots, com­pris­ing 21 air­craft out of the to­tal fleet of 100. They are fixed price op­tions with in­cen­tives for cost. Based on ap­proved re­quire­ments, the av­er­age pro­cure­ment unit cost (APUC) per air­craft is re­quired to be equal to or less than $550 mil­lion per air­craft in 2010 dol­lars when procur­ing 100 LRS-B air­craft. The APUC from the in­de­pen­dent es­ti­mate sup­port­ing to­day’s award is $511 mil­lion per air­craft, again in 2010 dol­lars.

Based on cur­rent LRS-B in­de­pen­dent cost es­ti­mates, the Air Force projects the APUC for the pro­gramme will be ap­prox­i­mately a third of the pre­vi­ous B-2 stealth air­craft.

“We be­lieve this is a rea­son­able and achiev­able es­ti­mate. If we re­main dis­ci­plined and keep pro­gramme re­quire­ments stable, we should beat this es­ti­mate,” said Dr Wil­liam A. La­Plante, As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Air Force for Ac­qui­si­tion.

The Air Force pro­gramme of­fice con­ducted de­sign ef­forts with in­dus­try over the last three years to en­sure re­quire­ments for the air­craft were stable and al­lowed for the use of ma­ture sys­tems and ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy while still pro­vid­ing de­sired ca­pa­bil­ity.

With that said, ag­ile ac­qui­si­tion pro­cesses have been built into the LRS-B de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion ef­forts to en­sure the Air Force de­liv­ers sys­tem ca­pa­bil­i­ties for the best value. The pro­gramme also ef­fec­tively in­cen­tivises in­dus­try to achieve cost, sched­ule and per­for­mance goals.

The LRS-B is de­signed to have an open ar­chi­tec­ture al­low­ing in­te­gra­tion of new tech­nol­ogy and timely re­sponse to fu­ture threats across the full range of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. This open ar­chi­tec­ture also pro­vides the op­por­tu­nity to re­tain com­pe­ti­tion across the life­cy­cle of the pro­gramme.

“The pro­gramme ac­qui­si­tion strat­egy has care­fully in­te­grated lessons learned from pre­vi­ous pro­grammes and con­sid­ered all el­e­ments of life-cy­cle costs in its de­sign for af­ford­abil­ity,” Dr La­Plante added. “We are primed to de­liver this ca­pa­bil­ity in the most af­ford­able, ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble.”

Bas­ing de­ci­sions and fu­ture pro­gramme mile­stones for the air­craft will take place over the next sev­eral years.

Sec­re­tary of De­fense Ashton Carter (cen­tre) with Sec­re­tary of the Air Force Deb­o­rah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen­eral Mark A. Welsh III, dur­ing a press brief­ing to an­nounce the award of the long-range strike bomber con­tract in

the Pen­tagon on Oc­to­ber 27, 2015

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