Boeing, Lockheed Martin to team up for long-range bomber bid

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are joining forces to bid on the Pentagon’s new bombers, the companies announced Friday.

The companies are planning to bid jointly on the new long-range strike bomber program, with Boeing as the primary contractor on the bid and Lochkeed the main subcontractor, Boeing said Friday.

Orlando Carvalho, vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement that the firms would be joining their “collection of technologies, capabilities and resources to affordably design, develop, produce and sustain the bomber program.”

Boeing and Lockheed are expected to be competing against Northrop Grumman, which produced the Air Force’s previous B-2 bomber.

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The long-range bomber contract is going to be one of the Air Force’s biggest acquisition programs in the coming years — as long as it doesn’t fall victim to budget cuts under sequestration.

The bomber contract will be worth billions, as the Air Force plans to procure as many as 100 bombers at a cost that could reach $550 million, according to the Congressional Research Service. The contract could reach $56 billion over the 50-year life of the aircraft, CRS said.

The first long-range bombers are expected to be operational around 2025.

The brewing battle over the Air Force’s long-range bomber will have a different feel than most fights over major Pentagon contracts, because the program is classified.

Lockheed and Boeing are already behind two of the Air Force’s largest programs, as Lockheed is the prime contractor for the F-35 fighter while Boeing is producing the new KC-46A tanker. The defense firms also teamed up on the F-22 stealth fighter.

The Air Force had initially hoped to have new bombers operational by 2018, but the program was delayed in 2009 by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates over cost concerns.

Boeing and Lockheed also planned to team up on the next-generation bomber in 2008 before it was put on hold, company officials said. They noted that the program is different today than it was before 2009.

— This story was updated at 1:16 p.m.