The Pentagon on Tuesday awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. a contract valued by analysts at more than
$20 billion $100 billion $300 billion to build new long-range bombers for the U.S. Air Force in what has been the most fiercely fought weapons contest in more than a decade.
Northrop Grumman was selected over a Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. team to build the first 21 jets to replace aging B-52 and B-1 warplanes. The contract eventually could be worth
$80 billion (likely closer to $300 billion – judging by past experience, but who is counting) and provide 100 planes total. The first aircraft are due to enter service around 2025.
The new radar-evading bomber is designed to fly undetected over potential adversaries such as Russia or China that have upgraded their air defenses. The Pentagon has in recent months become increasingly concerned that these two countries are developing weapons that match or exceed U.S capabilities. The new plane would be capable of firing conventional and nuclear weapons, becoming the third leg of the nuclear triad alongside submarine and land-based ballistic missiles.