01:40 - Source: CNN
Air Force awards new stealth bomber contract

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The Pentagon has said the LRS-B bomber will cost close to $550 million per airplane, projecting a $55 billion price total

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the new aircraft will help the U.S. "project power across the globe now and into the future"

CNN —  

The Pentagon took a major step toward upgrading its aging bomber fleet Tuesday, awarding the long-awaited contract to build the new Long Range Strike Bomber to Northrop Grumman.

Calling the Long Range Strike Bomber the “back bone” of the Air Force’s future strike and deterrence capabilities, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the new aircraft allows the U.S. to “project power across the globe now and into the future.”

“The age of our bomber fleet requires new thinking and new capabilities,” Carter said. “Building this bomber is a strategic investment for the next 50 years.”

Officials have been tight-lipped as to the specific capability expectations for the LRS-B, but indications are that it will be stealth, able to carry conventional and nuclear weapons and could possibly operate both with and without a pilot.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the new long-range bomber will have the ability to launch from the U.S. and strike any target around the globe to counter advancements in air defense systems by rival nations and emerging threats posed by potential adversaries.

Northrop Grumman, the developer of the Air Force’s current bomber, the B-2, beat out a partnership between aeronautic juggernauts Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the right to build the next generation of long-range aircraft.

“The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation’s security,” said Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman, in a statement. “As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly-capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber.”

Along with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the KC-46 tanker, t