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“We’re about ready to enter into the next phase of the bomber. We’ve spent the last couple of years refining the requirements and maturing the technology. Within the next year we will down-select to one contractor and then start the heavy lifting of building the first bomber and testing,” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, military deputy for Air Force acquisition, told Military.com in an interview.
“Combining with the weapons that it will carry and the suite that goes with the bomber it will be able to essentially put anywhere in the world at risk within a short period of time,” she said.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as emerging and future weapons, Pawlikowski explained.
What we must not do is repeat what happened with our last manned bomber. By the time the research, development, and requirements processes ran their course, the aircraft, despite its great capability, turned out to be so expensive—$2 billion each in the case of the B-2—that less than one-sixth of the planned fleet of 132 was ever built.
The new bomber is targeted to cost under $550 million per plane with a production run of 80 to 100 aircraft, and it is to be delivered in about 10 years. In a speech in June, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for acquisition William LaPlante said that the program "is designed around a fixed set of requirements [and] relatively mature technologies... [we will] build the first version knowing it won’t have everything on it that we want or will want. We’re building an adaptable approach with an open architecture
On the $550 million-per-plane pricetag, LaPlante said, "If later on we decide to buy 200 bombers, or we decide to buy 50, the [cost] will change."
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned and manned missions.