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NG selected for LRS-B; GRUMMAN IRONNNNNNNN
Topic Started: Oct 28 2015, 08:54 (1,445 Views)
Devran Tiryaki
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They even have an incredibly cheesy website up about it.
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Less than two hours after the Air Force announced Northrop was its choice to build 80 to 100 future bombers for the service, the company launched AmericasNewBomber.com, in what appears to be a move to protect both the contract win and the LRS-B program as a whole.

The website features a breadth of information largely focused on making the case for why America should spend billions in the coming decades to fund a new bomber.

Splashed over a picture of a bomber pilot reads the warning: "Our potential adversaries are extending their reach, and stealth bombers are America's most strategic asset to deter future threats and keep our nation safe. Today we only have 20 of them."

The site then directs readers to send emails to a series of top US figures, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, supporting the bomber.

"I am writing to express my support for the United States Air Force's Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program," the pre-written letter reads. "Our national security depends on the ability to deter adversaries and defend American interests at a moment's notice in any corner of the world. I urge you to support the LRS-B program to preserve our military's advantages in a challenging and dynamic global environment."

The LRS-B program is expected to find itself in an eventual funding fight with the Navy's Ohio Class nuclear submarine program. Air Force officials and experts alike have expressed concerns to Defense News over the last several months that the service is not doing enough to pave the way for the program on the Hill. The website appears to be a way to address that deficiency.

Of course, the website can also be a tool for Northrop if the Boeing-Lockheed Martin team it defeated decides to protest the Air Force's decision, as is widely expected. While the protest is handled by the independent GAO, big programs are often also fought in Congress.

Boeing and Lockheed will likely wage intense lobbying campaigns to rally support for a protest. Boeing is expected to tap the Missouri delegation, including influential Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, while Lockheed will look to the Texas delegation, particularly Fort Worth's Republican Rep. Kay Granger and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, also a Republican.

One expert predicted the Missouri and Texas delegations will come out swinging for the Boeing-Lockheed team.

"McCaskill will go to war for this and Texas will back it," one defense analyst told Defense News.

Throughout the LRS-B contract campaign, Northrop was not shy about advertising. It launched a major ad campaign that covered the streets around Capitol Hill with posters advertising the company's technology, while also launching a pair of flashy TV ads — including one that ran locally during the Super Bowl.


This is probably the most political aircraft buy I've ever seen, and this is even counting the F-35 shenanigans.
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Henry Dravot
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All hail the flying dorito.
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Sajjad Azam
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Hot damn.

Good one Northrop Grumman. It's about time they made a new manned plane.

What I wonder is if they can make something that's more capable than the old B-2s but less ridiculously expensive.
Edited by Sajjad Azam, Oct 28 2015, 10:32.
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Jovanka Larsen
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Sajjad Azam
Oct 28 2015, 10:31
Hot damn.

Good one Northrop Grumman. It's about time they made a new manned plane.

What I wonder is if they can make something that's more capable than the old B-2s but less ridiculously expensive.
The only reason the B-2 costs that much is because the US only ordered 21 of them... had they ordered the originally planned 132, the per-unit cost would have been a lot cheaper.
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Henry Dravot
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LRS-B's Industrial Base Ramifications Will Slowly Unfold
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Wednesday will be a bad day for Boeing and Lockheed Martin on Wall Street – that is almost certain.

With headlines flashing that Northrop Grumman won the $21.4 billion U.S. Air Force contract for an expected 100 Long-Range Strike Bombers at an eventual production cost of $564 million each in fiscal 2016 dollars, Boeing’s and Lockheed’s stock prices will drop. And Northrop’s will rise.

Beyond the initial reaction, however, the ramifications of the bomber decision may not be so clear for the U.S. defense industrial base. While it is likely true that winning LRS-B is better than losing – assuming the program is ultimately successful – the notion that losing the award is calamitous for everyone else is less clear.

For starters, Wall Street did not have a clear expectation of winner and loser, so there could be no upset, per se. “If Northrop wins, this would be like Lockheed winning the F-35, and from a position where no one is really the favorite due to the lack of real information on the respective bids,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard said hours before the award was announced.

Another analyst, Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, foresaw a 55% probability of Boeing and Lockheed winning over Northrop, so a Northrop win likely would spur that much more of a positive stock response than the others.

Callan also mentioned a school of thought popular among a few financial analysts and consultants this year that win or lose, the LRS-B decision may thin the number of military aircraft manufacturers.

"It’s a game changer,” says Richard Aboulafia, Teal Group vice president for analysis. "It positions Northrop Grumman as the second most important U.S. combat aircraft prime, and puts a big question mark over Boeing’s military aircraft future. As the F-15 and Super Hornet wind down, Boeing will need to choose. Either it goes back to being largely a commercial jetliner company, or it makes a bid for Northrop Grumman’s aircraft unit. But that now would be very expensive.”

With major divestitures like exiting the warship-building industry in 2011, Northrop under Chairman and Chief Executive Wes Bush has not been afraid to shed lower-margin business lines and to focus the company on other ventures like cyber and unmanned vehicles.

But Bush – who also moved the company’s headquarters to suburban Washington from Los Angeles and has overseen a 20% drop in total headcount – has been one of the most prominent figures cautioning on post-LRS industrial base changes. “We would eagerly embrace the opportunity to go and execute on LRS for our nation should we be awarded that contract, but I would be careful about making prognostications that that alone has a reshaping impact on the industry,” he said in a quarterly teleconference in April.

Many analysts and consultants see why. Fiscal 2015, which ended in September, should represent the bottom of the post-war, sequester-related dip in U.S. defense spending – and Northrop and its Aerospace unit have done well in positioning for it and beyond.

“Backlogs were strong in the first quarter, reinforcing our view that 2015 should be a trough point for revenue,” AB Bernstein analysts noted in May. “Aerospace Systems is generating strong revenue growth from unmanned systems, restricted space and F-35. We expect longer-term margin upside as well.”

Boeing Chairman Jim McNerney told Aviation Week roughly the same thing in a June article when he was still also CEO. “Do we want to win the bomber? Absolutely. Do we have a good chance of winning? Yes,” he continued. “Does the company go down the tubes if we lose? No.”

Indeed, primes learned long ago not to bet their company on one program, and there are other aviation awards coming despite the overall paltry number of new-start defense programs versus the war years. For instance, Air Force officials have described the bomber as part of a “family” of LRS systems. Also, contractors are watching Air Force T-X trainer requirement developments and the Navy’s moves toward unmanned combat or reconnaissance air systems. Later on there may even be another chance at the Air Force’s aerial refueling tankers, while the Lockheed-led F-35 may not push out F-18s and other Western fighters as quickly as once envisioned due to slower rollout and higher costs.

“Our strategy was to over-invest to best position ourselves to be successful on as many of those programs as possible,” Boeing defense Chief Executive Chris Chadwick said in a separate article in May.

Next on the list of reasons to guard against major changes anytime soon is the fact that none of the leading prime defense contractors staked their near-term future on winning LRS-B alone. In fact, each has amassed monstrous – even record – backlogs of already scheduled work before LRS-B was awarded. Earlier this month, Northrop reported a total backlog of $36 billion, Lockheed reported $72 billion, and Boeing said its Defense, Space and Security unit had $59 billion apart from the $426 billion backlog on its commercial side.

Due to the long-term certainty they provide, backlogs are one of Wall Street’s favorite mechanisms for measuring an aerospace and defense company’s prospects. They are part and parcel to why manufacturers and their suppliers have fared better than defense services and other companies – so-called short cycle companies that are more dependent on annual federal appropriations and do not enjoy multiyear contracts – since the 2008 financial crisis.

Meantime, Boeing and Lockheed have pre-positioned themselves massively already. Boeing is focused on delivering on its eight-year airliner backlog, even as it has taken steps to streamline its defense side. Both, of course, enjoy high-profile prime positions on aerospace programs of record like the KC-46A tanker and F-35. What is more, if either wanted to get out of a seemingly challenged niche sector, they likely would have exited the space launch business when Aerojet Rocketdyne made a play for United Launch Alliance a few months ago. They have not.

Lockheed’s big industrial base move, meantime, has been to acquire Sikorsky Aircraft. Later this century, as Joint Strike Fighters orders fall off, there might be greater need for advanced rotorcraft. Meantime, Lockheed is shedding about $6 billion worth of federal information technology and services business as it doubles down on platforms and weapon systems.

Finally, defense industrial officials have also explained that they seek more competition for programs, and that can include actively maintaining multiple providers as is done in warship construction with General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls Industries. Also, Pentagon officials have indicated they will not favor more consolidation of prime and quasi-primes after Lockheed buys Sikorsky. While that deal will squeak by due to the fact that it does not eliminate a helicopter manufacturer and because there are no standing restrictions against such consolidation, those conditions could be different if an aerospace-oriented deal were proposed.

“It’s just a fact that with size comes the ability to have influence over things like the [defense] budget, or how acquisitions go, simply because you have the financial resources to invest strategically to capture market share,” Pentagon acquisition czar Frank Kendall said earlier this month. “If this trend continues the way it’s playing out, we’ll wind up at a point where we’ll have two or maybe three primes who are essentially the sources for all of the commodities we buy.”

Of course, conditions change and so do minds. A new CEO at any of the major primes will likely look to make an imprint like Northrop Grumman's Bush did when he took that job. Until about a year ago, few predicted United Technologies was on the verge of selling Sikorsky. Then-CEO Louis Chenevert was a major proponent, and Sikorsky had been an asset for 90 years. Chenevert now is out, and so is Sikorsky.

In Washington, Kendall is expected to stay in office through the Obama administration. But a new president takes the Oval Office in January 2017 and could bring new policies.
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Devran Tiryaki
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There's something incredibly hilarious about these stock analyst talking heads trying to make sense out of defense procurements. Corruption is still a thing!

Hard not to detect the bitterness and resentment from Kendall's statement about the state of affairs on the procurement side. Capitalism at work.
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Henry Dravot
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LRS-B: Why Northrop Grumman Won Next U.S. Bomber
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Northrop Grumman is the winner of the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) contest, beating a rival team with six times its annual sales.

The U.S. Air Force announced Oct. 27 that Northrop Grumman beat a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team in a competition to develop and build 100 of the bombers, which are expected to reach initial operational capability in the mid-2020s. The Pentagon says the next phase of the work, engineering and manufacturing development (EMD), should cost $21.4 billion in 2010 dollars, including the delivery of an unspecified number of test aircraft.

Another $1.9 billion has already been spent on risk reduction, bringing both competing teams through the initial design phase. In 2016 dollars, the estimated EMD cost is $23.5 billion, the Pentagon says. The B-2 cost $37.2 billion to develop in 2016 dollars.

The Air Force also says that the average procurement unit cost for the Northrop Grumman bomber (which does not have a formal designation yet) will be $511 million in 2010 dollars, assuming a 100-aircraft buy ($564 million in 2016 dollars). This figure, the result of two independent Pentagon estimates, is lower than the $550 million (2010 dollars) goal that was set in 2011, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved the start of the program.

Northrop Grumman’s contract includes fixed-price incentive options for the first five batches of low-rate initial production aircraft, comprising 21 bombers. The price for those aircraft (which will be higher than the average) has not been disclosed. Through production, the program has been estimated to represent $80 billion in business. The LRS-B is expected to be operational in the mid-2020s. The exact date will depend on initial operational capability criteria, such as a certain number of aircraft in service, which are still to be determined by the Air Force’s Global Strike Command.

The stakes for LRS-B were so huge that industry analysts have long predicted that the losing bidder would protest the award. Boeing is no stranger to that tactic. In 2008, the company successfully protested the Air Force’s 2008 award of a contract for refueling tankers to a Northrop-EADS team and ultimately won the contract in a second competition. Boeing and Lockheed Martin said in a joint statement that they were “disappointed by today’s announcement (and) interested in knowing how the competition was scored in terms of price and risk.” The Air Force says it will start debriefing the loser on Friday, and there is a 100-day period in which to lodge a protest.

“The Air Force has made the right decision for our nation’s security,” said Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman president, chairman and CEO. “Our team has the resources in place to execute this important program.”

For the time being, however, the make-up of Northrop Grumman’s team is a secret, as are most attributes of the program. Not even the engine subcontractor is disclosed, although the Air Force said today that all major subsystems have been selected. Although most analysts agree it is overwhelmingly likely that the bomber will resemble a smaller cousin of the B-2, a blended wing-body aircraft with two engines and an unrefueled radius of action of around 2,500 nm, no such details have been confirmed.

Details of the selection process also remain highly classified, but it is likely that the winning bid rested on Northrop Grumman's operational experience with wide-band, all-aspect stealth technology on the B-2 bomber and the still-secret RQ-180 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unmanned air vehicle.


But the winning formula was most likely not just a question of delivering more stealth or more range. In LRS-B, the winner had to meet a complex set of requirements that stress risk reduction, an open systems architecture, agile management and manufacturing technology.

The LRS-B contest was unique in three particularly important ways. First, the requirement had emerged from the ashes of the previous Next-Generation Bomber program (NGB), canceled in April 2009, with its goals scaled down and schedule stretched out, and unit cost as a key performance parameter (KPP).

Second, rather than funding demonstration programs, the Pentagon supported two teams through preliminary design review (PDR), probably for almost two years, 2013-15.

A third key feature of the LRS-B is that its management has been assigned to the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), which, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante said Oct. 21, has “an incredible track record of delivering eye-watering capabilities—not just one-offs, but things going into production.”

Significantly, LaPlante describes the 80-strong LRS-B project office within the RCO as like the team that produced the Lockheed F-117 stealth fighter 35 years ago: “A small empowered group of warfighters, acquisition people and maintainers.” Although the RCO’s only acknowledged aerospace platform is the Boeing X-37B spaceplane, its technical focus can be gauged by the fact that a 2012 recruitment notice for its deputy director identified only three mandatory areas of “significant experience . . . low-observables, counter low-observables and electronic warfare.” Like the F-117, the LRS-B is apparently designed to meet its goals with mature subsystems in a new platform.

However, LaPlante added, the RCO team has substantial oversight from the Pentagon, Congress and Government Accountability Office, and the program incorporates red team/blue team exercises to validate it against possible threats.

The LRS-B contest set an average procurement unit cost of $550 million—in fiscal 2010 dollars based on building 100 aircraft—as a KPP. “The risk is that you pick the wrong number. If you have firm requirements and do the analytics, you have a shot at pulling that off,” LaPlante says.

Some of the key technologies in the LRS-B are both secret and mature. “Not only have some technologies been wind-tunnel-tested, prototyped or flown—some of them have been used operationally,” LaPlante said Oct. 21.

However, LaPlante also emphasized that delays and overruns cannot be eliminated. “Integration is always a risk,” he said, “and we have put together a schedule with the right margins to accommodate delays.”

LRS-B, too, is planned to be upgraded easily and competitively, “with space and weight provision for things we can’t imagine today,” LaPlante said. Open architecture, he said, could allow the Pentagon to procure a new or upgraded subsystem competitively, “provide it to the prime and say, integrate this.” Along with the cost of maintaining the bomber’s low-observable systems, upgrades will account for a large proportion of the bomber’s life-cycle cost—which will be much greater than its procurement bill.

There is one other way in which LRS-B will differ from other programs: its production rate. The number is based on a “fundable profile, without the big ramp-up you see on F-35,” LaPlante said. “We have set it up to be resilient,” with affordable annual funding. “That would be $550 million times your production rate, which might be seven or eight per year,” he said. The rate is much lower than recent combat aircraft programs but also means the line will be moving until almost 2040. Many bomber advocates quietly argue that if LRS-B delivers, and Asia-Pacific operations remain important, the Air Force will need more than 100 of the bombers.

Northrop Grumman is less than one-sixth the size of the Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon team, with total revenues of $160 billion. Boeing and Lockheed Martin agreed to team on NGB in early 2007 and revealed that arrangement in January 2008. The team re-formed for LRS-B, adding Raytheon. Together, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been prime contractors on almost every combat aircraft in U.S. service today, while Lockheed Martin has been the prime contractor on four out of five production stealth programs.

But the fact that they were allowed to team for NGB and then re-form the team for LRS-B indicated that the Pentagon leadership did not see this as an impediment to a fair fight. Rules have changed, too. Briefing reporters Oct. 21, LaPlante emphasized the importance of independent cost estimates—produced by the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) directorate—under the 2009 Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act. “All programs have an independent estimate, and we are funded to that level,” LaPlante said. Nor is the estimate a single review process: The program office has been briefing CAPE estimators from the outset.

The development cost quoted today is the independent cost estimate, not the winner’s or program office’s estimate. The goal is to make underbidding less likely and less effective.

Not only did Boeing and Lockheed Martin outgun their rival fiscally, but they were also teamed on a government-funded demonstrator aircraft, identified as the Next-Generation Long-Range Strike Demonstrator, under an effort that started in the early days of NGB and continued after the ambitious bomber was canceled. The stealth-technology group within Boeing’s Phantom Works, headed by Alan Wiechman, led the low-observables side of the program, although Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works built the airframe.

Alongside stealth, Phantom Works pioneered the use of new manufacturing technology. This has led to the closely held Boeing-wide initiative known as Black Diamond, which was identified this summer as a possible major competitive advantage in LRS-B.

Lockheed Martin brought its experience with stealth systems integration to the party. But the history of the F-22—where upgrades have been constrained by a tightly integrated architecture, so that every change requires painstaking regression testing to ensure that other functions are not affected—was exactly what the LRS-B program’s open architecture is designed to avoid.

While Northrop Grumman may have shared some NGLRS-D technology, the most important experience that company brought to the table may well have been the RQ-180. From conversations with industry sources, it appears that one of the major breakthroughs in the design of this very stealthy, high-altitude UAV was its combination of stealth with aerodynamic and propulsive efficiency, largely the result of better computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and computational electromagnetics (CEM).

The B-2 had achieved a high level of stealth, but the design was a difficult compromise between stealth and aerodynamics, and the complex shape of the center body and wing section, with strongly three-dimensional stream and shock patterns, pushed the state of the art in both computer modeling and testing. Given its high fuel fraction, its 6,000-nm unrefueled range showed that, at best, its efficiency was no better than that of the B-52.

In sharp contrast, some early-2000s Northrop Grumman designs were described by one engineer as having “sailplane-like” efficiency. While the RQ-180 will almost certainly be shown to be a much lighter aircraft than the LRS-B, its wingspan is likely quite close to that of the bomber, and its development will have validated the CFD and CEM codes used in the design, along with radar-absorbent materials and coatings. The UAV will also be providing operational experience with new stealth technologies, underpinning Northrop Grumman estimates of the LRS-B’s operating cost.

While Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 UAV is widely considered to have been an RCO program, meaning that all three aircraft companies in the LRS-B competition have worked with RCO, the RQ-180 experience would be most relevant.

Despite the B-2’s reputation for high cost, Northrop Grumman says its experience with the program was a plus. “It is behaving like a legacy aircraft now,” says one company executive, with flight-hour costs that are not out of line with other small-volume fleets of large aircraft in the Air Force. Operating costs for such aircraft, the company says, seem to be driven by fixed costs and by the inevitably slow learning curve for depot-maintenance visits. Each B-2 today goes into depot for 12 months every nine years. At the same time, the B-2’s signatures “have improved significantly” through the use of new materials.

Northrop Grumman has also made a radical move to contain its costs, although its impact on the LRS-B bid is uncertain: Under the codename Project Magellan, it has established a manned-aircraft center of excellence in Melbourne, Florida. Across the U.S. combat-aircraft business, this represents a reversal of a decades-long consolidation that has seen major engineering locations dwindle to three centers: Los Angeles/Palmdale, St. Louis and Fort Worth. The company has already opened a new 220,000-sq.-ft. building in Melbourne and has plans for another new 500,000-sq.-ft., 1,500-person facility by 2019.

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Admiral Hanley
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I bet lockheed's entry was a two seat f-35C.
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Victor Borodin
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Jovanka Larsen
Oct 28 2015, 11:58
Sajjad Azam
Oct 28 2015, 10:31
Hot damn.

Good one Northrop Grumman. It's about time they made a new manned plane.

What I wonder is if they can make something that's more capable than the old B-2s but less ridiculously expensive.
The only reason the B-2 costs that much is because the US only ordered 21 of them... had they ordered the originally planned 132, the per-unit cost would have been a lot cheaper.
is that F35 reasoning i read there ?!
Admiral Hanley
Oct 29 2015, 15:32
I bet lockheed's entry was a two seat f-35C.
I bet lockheed'S entry was a two seat F-35b, where they took out the lift fan and replaced it with a 2nd seat.
Edited by Victor Borodin, Oct 29 2015, 20:11.
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Cpt Antonio Stygar
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Victor Borodin
Oct 29 2015, 20:07
Jovanka Larsen
Oct 28 2015, 11:58
Sajjad Azam
Oct 28 2015, 10:31
Hot damn.

Good one Northrop Grumman. It's about time they made a new manned plane.

What I wonder is if they can make something that's more capable than the old B-2s but less ridiculously expensive.
The only reason the B-2 costs that much is because the US only ordered 21 of them... had they ordered the originally planned 132, the per-unit cost would have been a lot cheaper.
is that F35 reasoning i read there ?!
Admiral Hanley
Oct 29 2015, 15:32
I bet lockheed's entry was a two seat f-35C.
I bet lockheed'S entry was a two seat F-35b, where they took out the lift fan and replaced it with a 2nd seat.
Its more fun if you attach the seat to the fan, and add a pair of brownings to it. So it has 360º defense.
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Theodor Rolandsson
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Cpt Antonio Stygar
Nov 3 2015, 23:28
Victor Borodin
Oct 29 2015, 20:07
Admiral Hanley
Oct 29 2015, 15:32
I bet lockheed's entry was a two seat f-35C.
I bet lockheed'S entry was a two seat F-35b, where they took out the lift fan and replaced it with a 2nd seat.
Its more fun if you attach the seat to the fan, and add a pair of brownings to it. So it has 360º defense.
Nah, they would never put brownings on it, that would be too low-tech.

They'd have to spend a couple of billion dollars inventing a 50 cal laser guided stealth machinegun that fires special ARM coated bullets.
Edited by Theodor Rolandsson, Nov 4 2015, 02:55.
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Henry Dravot
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Opinion: Did Unique Requirements Swing Pentagon’s Bomber Decision?
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The losing players in the $80 billion Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program bid are spinning a narrative of “bet the company” low-ball costs.

It might be argued that the major contractor on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter along with the KC-46 prime are qualified to recognize an unrealistic bid when they see one, but it will be hard to prove underbidding in the face of two independent reviews, one by the Air Force and the other by the Pentagon’s Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) directorate. Particularly so for Lockheed Martin, whose bosses were complaining not long ago that CAPE’s estimates of F-35 costs were ludicrously high.

The counterargument may be that the LRS-B is different from earlier Pentagon programs, and this difference gave Northrop Grumman the chance to pull the odd rabbit out of its hat.

The Pentagon not only set a goal for average procurement unit cost (APUC)—none of this “unit recurring flyaway” stuff, which leaves out spares, support equipment and other things essential to putting rubber on the ramp—but it has been made a key performance parameter. It has teeth: The development contract includes fixed-price incentive options for the first 21 production bombers in five low-rate initial-production batches.

Cost goals are often illusory; by the time they are found to be unrealistic, it’s economically prohibitive for the customer to change course. But the APUC goal for LRS-B (originally $550 million in 2010 dollars, based on a 100-aircraft run) has a few things going for it.

The LRS-B specification resulted from a vigorous scrubbing of requirements. The bomber went from the “Battlestar Galactica” Next-Generation Bomber to part of a family of systems.

Rather than conducting a competitive demonstration program—an approach that hasn’t always done well at anticipating and fixing snags—the Pentagon funded both teams through preliminary design review. The F-35 PDR, which started the process of unearthing the weight explosion that led to a redesign, took place about 16 months into the program.

Air Force procurement chief William LaPlante compares the project to the Lockheed F-117. The F-117 also emerged as an alternative to a bigger, more sophisticated but unaffordable aircraft and was run by small industry and government teams.

The F-117 and LRS-B used mature technology where possible while focusing on what was new, risky and essential. The F-117’s signatures—aerodynamics and propulsion integration—were revolutionary, but its engines, sensors, cockpit displays, navigation system and landing gear were off-the-shelf.

Winning LRS-B likely meant concentrating on two areas. One would have been the combination of low-maintenance stealth with aerodynamic and propulsion efficiency. The other would have been open architecture, to ensure that the slow-paced platform program can keep up with the state of the art in other technologies, from gallium nitride radio-frequency electronics to laser weapons.

Open architecture is essential to LRS-B strategy; it is the bridge between what the customer wants and what he’s willing to accept at initial operational capability to keep APUC down. LaPlante has clarified that he does not expect open architecture to lead to competition between primes for successive block upgrades; instead, he envisions direct competition among subsystem suppliers, underpinned by the knowledge that a new widget—designed to an open, government-owned standard—will play well with others.

The team with the better open-architecture plan will have had a big advantage in LRS-B. But what about production experience? Critics of the decision note that Boeing and Lockheed have built thousands more aircraft recently than has Northrop.

That they have, but building hundreds of aircraft per year was of little value in the LRS-B bidder’s resume, if—as LaPlante has suggested—the production rate is seven or eight per year. The goal is stability rather than volume: A high rate would strain the budget for its active years but would be hard to sustain beyond the first batch.

At such low rates, keeping overheads low and managing a lean supply chain will be as important as worker hours-per-pound of airframe. Making it easy for skilled, adaptable humans to do the job could work better than investing billions into tons of heavy tools and automated assembly systems. That sounds very unlike the Boeing 787 or Lockheed F-35—and more like Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites subsidiary, which may have been one of its secret weapons.

Making this work will be a challenge. Spiral development has all too often become death-spiral development, as cost overruns eat the funding that was intended for system improvements. But even at this point, and through a fog of secrecy, LRS-B looks like a different kind of program—and nobody can say that the old ways have been working well.
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James R. Cleary
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Henry Dravot
Nov 6 2015, 08:47
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That sounds very unlike the Boeing 787 or Lockheed F-35
They really should have seen that burn coming before deciding to try to play the "we can do it cheaper" card.
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Jovanka Larsen
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Victor Borodin
Oct 29 2015, 20:07
Jovanka Larsen
Oct 28 2015, 11:58
Sajjad Azam
Oct 28 2015, 10:31
Hot damn.

Good one Northrop Grumman. It's about time they made a new manned plane.

What I wonder is if they can make something that's more capable than the old B-2s but less ridiculously expensive.
The only reason the B-2 costs that much is because the US only ordered 21 of them... had they ordered the originally planned 132, the per-unit cost would have been a lot cheaper.
is that F35 reasoning i read there ?!
Admiral Hanley
Oct 29 2015, 15:32
I bet lockheed's entry was a two seat f-35C.
I bet lockheed'S entry was a two seat F-35b, where they took out the lift fan and replaced it with a 2nd seat.
Not F-35 reasoning at all; a statement of facts. Most of the cost of any new aircraft goes in the development. The original 132 plan was deemed surplus to requirements after the Cold War ended.
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Asymmetrical warfare really makes procurement tough. Lots of high tech stuff you dont need in the current conflict but might need in a larger one and no simple solution to truck ordnance to a cave.
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Henry Dravot
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James R. Cleary
Nov 6 2015, 13:08
They really should have seen that burn coming before deciding to try to play the "we can do it cheaper" card.
But what about Skunk Works?

Posted Image

Never mind.
Boeing, Lockheed Protest LRS-B, Claim Competition Was Botched
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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) process was flawed, leading to an unfair award to Northrop Grumman for development of the stealthy aircraft that is estimated to be worth up to $80 billion, according to Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The pair of aerospace giants filed a protest of the award to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Nov. 6, kicking of an intense audit of the acquisition. The GAO has 100 days to rule on the merits of Boeing and Lockheed’s claims, meaning a decision is expected by early February.

Air Force officials did not respond to questions, but merely issued the following statement: “Although it is every competitor’s right to file a protest, the Air Force is confident that the source selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and taxpayer . . . Once resolved, we look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of the LRS-B aircraft.”

Northrop Grumman expressed disappointment with the protest, and implied they had stopped work on the program, although company officials said they did not know whether the Air Force had yet issued a stop-work order.

“The U.S. Air Force conducted an exceptionally thorough and disciplined process with multiple layers of review,” said Randy Belote, vice president of strategic communications for Northrop. “Their process took into full account the parties’ respective offerings and their relative capabilities to execute their offerings on schedule and on budget. Northrop Grumman offered an approach that is inherently more affordable and based on demonstrated performance and capabilities. Our record stands in contrast to that of other manufacturers’ large aircraft programs of the last decade. We look forward to the GAO reaffirming the Defense Department’s decision so we can continue work on this critically vital program.”

Neither the Air Force nor Northrop has said when the actual contract was signed, and whether work began on the project to develop and build 100 stealthy, nuclear-capable bombers ready for service as soon as the middle of the next decade. The Air Force announced Northrop’s win on Oct. 27. Typically, the Air Force issues a stop-work order when a protest is filed, though it can invoke a waiver to continue work if it is considered essential to national security. The service did not respond to questions about whether work was halted.

Though Air Force Secretary Deborah James said the selection represented the “best value” for the nation, Boeing and Lockheed Martin say the service did not appropriately score the bids with regard to risk and cost of accomplishing the work required. The result, they say, is a plan forward to buy an overpriced bomber.

“The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform, as required by the solicitation,” according to Boeing’s Nov. 6 press release. “That flawed evaluation led to the selection of Northrop Grumman over the industry-leading team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, whose proposal offers the government and the warfighter the best possible LRS-B at a cost that uniquely defies the prohibitively expensive trends of the nation’s past defense acquisitions.”

Boeing and Lockheed Martin were debriefed on why they lost Oct. 30 and had 10 days to protest. Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher did not comment and pointed to the company’s short press release on the matter.

One member of the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team said that, “after the debrief, the team was really scratching its head in trying to understand how this was scored. It appears that as they scored the proposals based on their historical cost data rather than trying to validate what either Northrop Grumman or the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team put forward.”

The cost of the development contract remains a close-held secret by the Air Force. The service says an independent Pentagon estimating team surmises the development program will cost $23.5 billion. This is not a contract value, but an independent cost estimate for the entire development effort, including additional Air Force management costs.

In assessing the bids, the Air Force “doubled” the cost of the Boeing-led bid in accordance with the use of historical models used by the service to weigh risk of accomplishing the work scope of the development, according to Loren Thompson, who wrote about the protest in a Nov. 6 Forbes piece. Thompson had publicly endorsed the Boeing/Lockheed bid despite the program’s requirements and procurement process being classified; his thinking tank receives money from Lockheed and Boeing—while Lockheed also is a client of his consultancy. Though he once received funding from Northrop, that relationship has long ended.

He said both teams were in the $10-11 billion range in their development bids, but they were inflated due to the Air Force’s risk assessment based on the historical models for legacy programs.

Reliance on these historical models—which include the Air Force’s botched development of the B-2—led the government to estimate a development cost twice that of what the competitors’ bid, he said. Thompson argues that this “eliminated any financial risk to industry in developing the bomber. This is the precise opposite of the way acquisition reform is supposed to operate.” What is unclear is whether the Air Force deviated from it own procurement rules in selecting these cost models; if so, the GAO will likely uphold the protest, sparking at the very least a re-scoring of the bids or, at most, a new competition.

However, Thompson acknowledges that Northrop’s cost was lower than that of the Boeing team’s before the cost adjustment and after. He said the teams were required to undergo a series of pass-fail “gates,” and the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team failed on Gate 2, which covers development price and cost of procuring the low-rate, initial-production units.

The contract is cost-reimbursable with incentive fees built in to reward Northrop for achieving specific milestones. The milestone incentives have not been disclosed by the service. With a cost-reimbursable contract, allowable cost overages will be paid for by the government. These allowable overages would be spelled out in the contract, but, again, the Air Force’s secrecy surrounding this deal has concealed the service’s strategy on allowable cost. The Air Force has argued its procurement was innovative, owing in part to the fact that the Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), a secretive group outside the normal procurement chain of command, lead the work. The RCO answers to Air Force leadership as well as to Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall. Kendall’s officer referred comment to the Air Force.

Thompson argues that Boeing got “no credit” for its “revolutionary” Black Diamond program, which is said to have made significant advances in reducing the cost of producing civil and military aircraft. Boeing, however, has not publicly disclosed what exactly Black Diamond accomplished and how, if at all, it applied to the bomber bid. Likewise, Thompson argues that Lockheed was not properly credited for delivering “each successive lot of F-35 fighter for less than historical data would have predicted.” Although each lot’s pricing has come down, the high-cost of the F-35 development or production programs has been one of Lockheed Martin’s glimmering success stories as many partner nations, including the U.S., have raised public criticism on this matter.

“There was no credit given for supply-chain innovations, system-integration skills, and a host of other advanced industrial capabilities in which Boeing and Lockheed lead the world,” Thompson complains. This applies to either team, he adds.

But, there are two different issues at play in Thompson’s account of why the team is protesting. One, which the GAO will explore, is strictly whether the Air Force followed its own process as it stated it would to the bidders. On this matter, it is not clear that Boeing and Lockheed Martin raised objections to the use of older cost models early in the procurement. “It is my impression that Boeing did not challenge” this early on, Thompson said, noting it seemed the team was surprised at the effect these models had on influencing cost adjustments due to risk for each of the bids.

But, the other question, of whether the Air Force’s process will procure an overpriced bomber is one raised to get the attention of lawmakers bent on reducing the Pentagon’s budget and righting an acquisition system perceived as out-of-touch with modern expectations for cost and modern practices for producing aircraft. The GAO is unable to address the latter point, as its review is strictly limited to whether the Air Force fairly implemented the rules it set forth in conducting the procurement. On this issue, Thompson is speaking directly to lawmakers in an attempt to end run the GAO should it uphold the source selection by calling into question the entire strategy for buying the aircraft.

Accordingly, pressure is likely to mount for a public review of the procurement from such vocal Air Force procurement critics as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Service Committee. He has questioned whether the cost-reimbursable model was appropriate for this development.

The Air Force has argued that this program relies upon more development work and carries more risk because of its stealth requirements and integration demands that are not suitable for a fixed-price deal, such as Boeing’s KC-46 refueler development.

Given this backdrop, the “team feels a lot like this is round one of the tanker,” Thompson said, referencing Boeing and Northrop Grumman’s last protest duel.

At the time, Northrop won the Air Force’s KC-135 replacement program, an upset as it was bidding a system based on the European A330 platform. Boeing’s protest eventually led to the Air Force scrapping Northrop’s win and starting a new competition, which Boeing won in February 2011. However, since winning, Boeing has paid $1.2 billion of its own money to keep the KC-46 afloat because the Air Force opted for a fixed-price development, citing low development risk.

For the bomber competition, the Air Force plans to implement fixed price beginning with production. One requirement for the competition was a per-unit price in 2010 dollars of $550 million; this is $606 million in today’s money.

However, the government’s own independent cost estimate notes an expectation of a $564 million price in today’s money, quite a difference that is likely to be a subject of the GAO’s review.

And this is surprising to no one.
Edited by Henry Dravot, Nov 6 2015, 14:07.
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which are expected to reach initial operational capability in the mid-2020s.


I'll eat my ghutra if it reaches operational capability before 2030.
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USAF Orders Northrop To Stop Work on LRS-B
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The U.S. Air Force has issued a stop-work order on the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) to Northrop Grumman in accordance with standard procedures for contracts that undergo a protest.

The stop-work order was sent Nov. 6, says Maj. Robert Leese, an Air Force spokesman. The order came the same day Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the losing bidders, filed their protest of the award with the Government Accountability Office.

Northrop Grumman declined to say whether it would continue some work on its own dime as the GAO reviews the protest.

The losing team alleges that the Air Force did not properly weigh the risk associated with each contractors’ bid and neglected to take into account how modern production and maintenance techniques could keep the price of the program down. The team claims the service unfairly added cost to each bid, roughly doubling the estimates from the $10-11 billion range as submitted.

Aside from the scoring issues, the team has raised the larger question of whether the entire process was errant from the outset, yielding a contract that fails to reduce cost during a time when Congress is demanding the Pentagon curb spending. GAO cannot rule on this issue, but it is likely to grab the attention of Congress.

The magnitude of the delay caused by the protest will be determined by whether GAO upholds any of Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s complaints. In some cases – such as the KC-X program – a protest can result in an entirely new competition, consuming years. In other cases, a fix can simply prompt a rescoring of the bids.

The Air Force says it hopes to field the first LRSB in a conventional role in the mid-2020s. Initial operational capability for the nuclear-capable version, which requires rigorous testing and validation, would come later. Adm. Cecil Haney, who leads U.S. Strategic Command, says he wants the nuclear delivery version in the field around 2030.

The Air Force did have the option to issue a waiver to the stop work, allowing Northrop Grumman to continue its progress. However, this is only used when national security is at risk if a system is not fielded smartly. It is likely the Air Force opted not to issue such a waiver in part to avoid the political scrutiny such a move could make.
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neglected to take into account how modern production and maintenance techniques could keep the price of the program down


I'm trying so hard not to laugh that Lockheed of all companies is saying this.
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Henry Dravot
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LRS-B Work Stops As GAO Reviews Protest
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With Northrop Grumman’s work on the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) officially halted pending a government audit of the losing team's protest, the big question ahead for the U.S. Air Force is just how long it will take to field this new aircraft.

Northrop Grumman won the contract, for an undisclosed amount, Oct. 27. The program to build 100 bombers is estimated to be worth $80 billion, with the Pentagon’s estimate for development at $23.5 billion in fiscal2016 dollars. The Air Force disclosed it had already spent $1.9 billion secretly in risk-reduction work for the two teams.

Service officials say they want the stealthy bomber in service for conventional use around 2025, and U.S. Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney says he wants the aircraft certified for nuclear delivery missions by 2030. Ten years should be enough to field a new system, but Pentagon bureaucracy has shown a decade to be a standard or perhaps an ambitious goal for complex aircraft procurements.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which has 100 days from the Boeing/Lockheed protest filed Nov. 6 to review the matter, could uphold the team’s claim that the service unfairly scored the teams’ bids. As with previous upheld protests, this could lead to a new competition—prompting a delay of a year or more—a worst-case scenario for the Air Force and Northrop Grumman, who are eager to get to work. Alternatively, the GAO could suggest only a rescoring of the bids in the event it upholds the protest, which should consume far less time.

At best, however, the Air Force will lose its first 100 days to a GAO protest that validates its process. Three-plus months would be a small price to pay if the service walks away with a stamp of approval from the GAO, especially after the multiple blunders in the Air Force’s pursuit of a KC-135 replacement aerial refueler.

“I gave the protest 15% odds of succeeding,” says defense analyst Byron Callan, a director at Capital Alpha Partners who has no ties to either company. He notes that Northrop has relevant experience building at low and high rates, and adds that a protest was inevitable regardless of the winner.

It is not just the plan ahead for buying LRS-B that hangs on the outcome.

Also at stake is the service’s own credibility in managing its programs. The Air Force has said very little about the program; it is an odd, publicly acknowledged classified effort. But, among its scant public comments are assurances that it put in place a new, reliable and credible process to select a winner.

Air Force procurement chief William LaPlante says that although some protests-—including those related to KC-X—garner public attention, they are not the norm. “The number of protests—I think—last year was in the single digits that were successful,” he said in 2014. “Out of 110,000 [contract] awards there were about 140 protests and four of them were successful. It just doesn’t happen. It’s statistically very rare.”

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James reiterated her endorsement of the LRS-B source selection during a press conference at the Dubai Airshow. “We believe we did do it correctly,” she said. “We sought a variety of outside, peer reviews and [input] outside the program office and outside the Air Force. And, independent cost estimates, several of them, were part of the equation. . . . It is my experience that [independent cost estimators] do have this pesky thing called data and facts on their side more often than not.”

Boeing and Lockheed Martin were debriefed on why they lost Oct. 30.

Little has been said by either company about the specifics of their protest, but it appears to hinge on lack of interest by the Air Force in how their new manufacturing techniques could lower costs. “The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform, as required by the solicitation,” according to Boeing’s Nov. 6 press release.

This led to the Air Force buying an overpriced bomber, says Washington-based analyst Loren Thompson in a Nov. 6 Forbes piece. Thompson had publicly endorsed the Boeing/Lockheed bid prior to the source selection despite the program’s requirements and procurement process being classified (his think tank receives money from Lockheed and Boeing, while Lockheed also is a client of his consultancy; although he once received funding from Northrop, that relationship has long ended).

In assessing the bids, Thompson claims the Air Force “doubled” the cost of the Boeing-led bid, in accordance with the service’s use of historical models to weigh the risk of accomplishing the development’s work scope. Thompson, wrote about the protest in the Forbes piece.

He says both teams were in the $10-11 billion range in their development bids, but they were inflated by the Air Force’s risk assessment based on the historical models for legacy programs.

Reliance on these models—which include the service’s botched development of the B-2—led the government to estimate a development cost twice what the competitors bid, he says, noting the $23.5 billion government estimate. Thompson argues this “eliminated any financial risk to industry in developing the bomber. This is the precise opposite of the way acquisition reform is supposed to operate.” What is unclear is whether the Air Force deviated from it own procurement rules in selecting these cost models; if so, the GAO will likely uphold the protest.

These numbers are also not verifiable; the contents of the loser debriefing have not been publicly disclosed, and the Air Force declines to comment. And, the government estimate likely includes costs over and above the contract price, such as government equipment and the program office structure.

“My experience in a time like this is that people who know are not talking and the people who are talking are the people who don’t really know the full facts,” says James.

However, Thompson acknowledges that Northrop’s cost was lower than that of the Boeing team’s before the alleged cost adjustment, and after.

The contract is cost-reimbursable, with incentive fees built in to reward Northrop for achieving specific milestones. The Air Force declined to share the milestone incentives. With a cost-reimbursable contract, the government will pay allowable overages, which would be spelled out in the contract.

The service argues its procurement was innovative, owing in part to the fact that the Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), a secretive group outside the normal procurement chain of command, led the work. The RCO answers to Air Force leadership as well as to Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall, whose office referred comment to the Air Force.

Thompson argues Boeing got “no credit” for its “revolutionary” Black Diamond program, which is said to have made significant advances in reducing the cost of producing civil and military aircraft. Boeing, however, has not publicly disclosed what exactly Black Diamond is and how it applied to the bomber bid, if at all. So it is unclear whether it was a plan or an actual process with a verifiable track record.

As with all protests in Washington, there are two different campaigns at play. One, which the GAO will explore, is whether the Air Force strictly followed its own process as it stated it would to the bidders. On this matter, it is not clear that Boeing and Lockheed Martin raised objections early in the procurement to the use of older cost models. “It is my impression that Boeing did not challenge this early on,” Thompson says, noting it seemed the team was surprised at the effect these models had on influencing cost adjustments due to risk.

The other question, of whether the Air Force’s process will procure an overpriced bomber, is one raised by Thompson to get the attention of lawmakers bent on reducing the Pentagon’s budget and righting a bloated acquisition system. The GAO is unable to address the latter point, as it is not their mandate. In making that point, Thompson is appealing directly to Congress in an attempt to end run the GAO review, should it eventually uphold the source selection, by calling into question the Air Force’s credibility and entire strategy for buying the aircraft.

The service argues this program relies upon more development work and carries more risk because its stealth requirements and integration demands are not suitable for a fixed-price deal, such as Boeing’s KC-46 refueler development.

For the bomber competition, the Air Force plans to implement fixed-price contracts beginning with production. One requirement for the competition was a per-unit price in 2010 dollars of $550 million, $606 million in today’s money.

However, the government’s own independent cost estimate notes an expectation of a $564 million price tag in today’s money, a big difference and likely to be a subject of the GAO’s review.
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Victor Borodin
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Boeing and Lockheed Martin were debriefed on why they lost Oct. 30 and had 10 days to protest.

"Fuck you guys, the F-35 is allready to expensive for what it not does! Seriously Fuck You." i guess that was the basic point of the debriefing
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James R. Cleary
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Probably also worth pointing out that Northrop's been leading the world in the flying wing design since 1946.
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Northrop Speeds Up B-2 Work, Primes For LRS-B
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PALMDALE, California – Though still gagged from discussing the Long Range Strike-Bomber pending the verdict of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) bid protest review, Northrop Grumman is quietly moving to quell potential concerns over whether it has sufficient industrial capacity for the project.

Balanced in a precarious position between being able to acknowledge winning the LRS-B contract in October and revealing future plans assuming a favorable GAO assessment, Northrop hints that if its plan prevails final assembly will occupy the same Building 401 hangar at Palmdale’s Plant 42 site used for the construction of the B-2 stealth bomber in the 1980s and 1990s.

The large Northrop facility, located on the northern side of the sprawling U.S. Air Force industrial complex in Palmdale, is dominated by Site 4, which includes the former B-2 assembly line. The western half of Building 401 is now occupied by the production line for the F-35 center fuselage Northrop manufactures for Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter assembly site in Fort Worth, Texas.

Assuming the GAO throws out protests from losing LRS-B contenders Boeing and Lockheed, Northrop plans to lay out production jigs for the new bomber in the eastern side of Building 401. The line, if it proceeds as planned, will be separated by a new wall divider from the F-35 production line. Although only 21 B-2s were built, the east side of Building 401 supported up to 11 bombers on the line during peak production.

Some work for the LRS-B will also be accommodated in the adjacent Site 3, the Northrop facility located to the west of Site 4, where final assembly and test work takes place on the Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle.

Northrop also is expected to activate Site 7 and 8 for LRS-B component and sub-assembly work. Located on a more isolated area in the center of the field, Site 7 was formerly leased to Lockheed for the F-117 Combined Test Force and 410th Flight Test Squadron. The facility, which was also used for F-117 depot maintenance, transitioned to more classified special project work for Lockheed’s Skunk Works in late 2008 following the termination of depot support for the F-117. The site’s last known association with the Stealth Fighter came in August of that year when the 410th was deactivated. Site 8, adjacent to Site 7, is located by the end of runway 04 at Palmdale.

The Air Force plans to buy up to 100 LRS-Bs to replace B-52s and B-1s, which are slated to retire in the mid-2040s. Initial operating capability is expected in the mid-2020s, with nuclear certification planned two years after service entry. The program is targeting a cost of around $550 million per aircraft; a basic enabler of this price point will be a mature production system. Together with Sites 3 and 4, the expanded footprint of Northrop’s production sites at Plant 42 will grow to a total of around 3 million square feet with the addition of Sites 7 and 8.

With concerns about the size and availability of the B-2 bomber fleet, Northrop is meanwhile speeding up maintenance on the 1980s-era aircraft. The company sought to reduce the time that it takes to overhaul each of the 20 bombers in the Air Force’s fleet from 560 days down to one year.

And it has finally done so, wrapping up the programmed depot maintenance of the Kitty Hawk – the first B-2 ever flown – within 359 days. The effort is aimed at reducing the cost of maintenance; the company estimates it will trim $900 million over the life of the fleet.
Advancements in the stealth coatings — from the initial days of painting the B-2 by hand to today’s robot-based application — are helping to keep more B-2s in operation. Previously the coatings had to be replaced every seven years to maintain their low radar cross section, but the Air Force has agreed to extend that to every nine years.

Along with a faster maintenance schedule, the B-2 has seen a number of upgrades to its radar system, adding Link 16 communications and new weapons, including the ability to carry two Boeing-made Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs. Future enhancements are planned as well. Engineers are working to integrate the B-61 tactical nuclear bomb and Northrop is in the acquisition planning phase of adding protections for nuclear missions via the use of Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications.
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Northrop Unveils Next-Generation Fighter Concept
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Amid signs of growing U.S. Air Force and Navy interest in a sixth-generation combat aircraft, Northrop Grumman is accelerating studies of key technologies for directed-energy weapons and thermal management. Not only is the effort integral to positioning for the next-generation fighter contract, it is also part of its aerospace division’s larger emphasis on targeted innovation.

The company, whose last venture into the air-dominance arena in the 1980s, the YF-23, lost out to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 in the advanced tactical fighter contest, has unveiled new images of a pair of optionally manned, tailless concepts aimed at replacing the Raptor and the BoeingF/A-18E/F. While acknowledging there are still more unknowns than knowns about future requirements for the next-generation air dominance (NGAD) aircraft, Northrop says technology to cope with dramatic growth in heat loads will be a key enabler for whatever needs emerge.

Thermal management is one of many innovations Northrop’s research, technology and advanced concepts division is pursuing.

“It is really creating the future through advanced research,” says Tom Vice, president of the Aerospace Systems division.

That includes seeding basic research, rather than the kinds of applied research defense companies typically engage in to mature emerging technologies for new weapons programs. “When we talk about basic research, we’re talking about the understanding of basic sciences and how we can apply that science to hard national problems,” Vice says.

Northrop, like other defense companies, has been under pressure for pursuing stock buybacks instead of focusing on independent research and development (IRAD). Its IRAD investment is on par with that of other companies. In 2014, Northrop spent $569 million on its own research efforts, according to recent stock filings. That translated into IRAD spending of 2.3% of the company’s total sales. By comparison, Boeing spent 3.4%, Lockheed 1.6%, and Raytheon 2.2%, Aviation Week’s Top-Performing Companies data indicate. Smaller companies typically spend more: Elbit, for example, spent 9% of sales on R&D, Honeywell 4.7%, Rockwell Collins 5.2% and Textron 5%.

Yet Northrop is not alone in talking up innovation while cutting dollars for research and development. Across the industry, companies spent 26.5% less on IRAD as a percentage of sales in 2009-14. And the Pentagon, which embarked on a new outreach program to Silicon Valley this year, cut its research accounts by 21.1% during the same time frame.

Vice defends the company’s investments in both stock buybacks and IRAD as a “balanced plan” that puts money toward the right technologies, with an understanding of how to be disruptive in the marketplace. Northrop’s high-tech efforts are targeted and have yielded results on laser programs, hypersonics and efforts to manage excess heat, Vice says.

The increase in research into handling heat loads is driven by the development of advanced weapons, particularly airborne lasers, as well as more powerful electronics, sensors and propulsion systems. The issue, which has already been a factor in early tests and operations of the F-35, is expected to challenge all NGAD concepts. Under Northrop’s NGAD umbrella this includes the U.S. Air Force’s F-X requirements (now set to embrace an F-15C replacement in addition to the F-22), as well as the Navy’s F/A-XX mission.

Unlike any previous generation of air-dominance aircraft at this embryonic stage, the configuration will be directly affected by the integration challenges of directed-energy weapons. “One of the unique things that happened [on NGAD] is the convergence of aircraft and weapons,” says Vice. Despite the miniaturization of laser technology and the switch from bulky chemical-based systems to solid-state, electric lasers, Vice says thermal management is still key.

“Even as good as our most advanced lasers are today, they’re still only 33% efficient. So if you have a 100-kW laser, you’ll have to do something like 200 kW with an enormous amount of heat,” says Vice. “What do you do with 2 megawatts? Where do you put it without making the aircraft glow?”

Mastering this challenge will be the deal-clincher for the winning NGAD design, he says. “Thermodynamics will be the key discriminator on who wins the next generation of air-dominance aircraft,” says Vice, who adds that superiority in electromagnetics, advanced-energy weapons and survivability will all play major roles.

Answers to the heat management problem are being sought by the U.S. Air Force’s Integrated Vehicle Energy Technology (Invent) program, which is working with Boeing to develop adaptive, smart aircraft power systems using model-based design. “We’ve been tracking Invent,” says Chris Hernandez, sector vice president of the company’s Research, Technology and Advanced Design unit. He notes, however, that the “work that one contractor is doing in that is supposed to be shared with industry. We are still waiting to see some of that sharing.”

Northrop is therefore working in parallel on its own thermal management technology. “We can’t wait,” Hernandez says. “We have a laboratory with all the power elements in it that are needed to make the laser work, running in the lab today.”

Vice adds: “That’s why we are not relying on somebody else and we are [coming up with] new ideas on how to deal with huge amounts of heat.” Although he declines to offer specifics, Vice says the technology will not be in the form of electric accumulators under study as part of Invent.

“If you are accumulating heat, at some point you have to get rid of it. But it also provides your ‘shot doctrine,’” he adds, referring to the number of shots that could be fired by the laser. “Our idea is if you have a laser on board, to get a truly limitless magazine you don’t want to have to invoke some limitation on how fast or how far you can fire.”

He adds: “That’s why we are thinking through thermodynamics in terms of ‘What if I want to have continuous lasing capability? What if I want to be able to shoot when needed?’ versus, ‘Oh my accumulator is full; now I have to dissipate heat. Bad guys, please don’t come next to my airplane until I can figure out how to reject the heat.’ The accumulator, to me, limits thinking, and I want to remove ourselves from that.”

Some heat from the weapons and electronics will also be rejected via heat exchangers located in the “third stream” of adaptive engines, under study by the Air Force Research Laboratory as well.

“The engine technology is going to get advanced by the Vaate [Versatile Affordable Advanced Turbine Engine]program. Until we know how far and how fast, we don’t know what the engine is,” says Hernandez. “We’re assuming that the technologies that will get advanced in Vaate will be transportable to the core of what we decide we need.”

According to Hernandez, much of the NGAD design space therefore remains wide open. “There are things we know about this and things we do not. How far should it go? How fast, [what] weapons, survivability, how maneuverable? None of those answers are known.”

In lieu of firm answers, says Hernandez, Northrop’s Advanced Design group, now headed by former Scaled Composites boss Kevin Mickey, has been “building up modeling and simulation capabilities and playing with different solutions to the problem, which is [how to] maintain control over a specific area of the sky for a specific amount of time.”

However, with the cost of the F-35’s one-size-fits-all approach fresh in the memories of both the services and industry, a key focus is on price. “Everything you want it to do to make it better makes it more expensive. For affordability, you can’t make this the be-all to everybody,” says Hernandez. “Our focus has been on looking at technologies and designs and the effectiveness of those solutions against the cost.”

Range will be another important design driver, though perhaps not for the usual reason. “We anticipate limited basing in the future,” he says. “If range is important, then you’ll need to carry a lot of weapons. The other thing we know is that the adversaries have been increasing their defensive capabilities. So survivability is going to be really important. This looks like a little baby B-2. That’s Northrop’s sweet spot,” he adds.


Posted Image
Directed-energy weapons and sensors for NGAD are driving the search for heat-rejection technology.

We lasers now.
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GAO Upholds USAF LRS-B Award To Northrop
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A Northrop Grumman-led team chosen last year to provide the U.S. Air Force’s first Long-range Strike Bombers (LRS-B) enjoyed a political and financial boost Feb. 16 when congressional arbiters of federal contract protests affirmed the armed service’s decision.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which had paired in a failed bid for the expected $80 billion program, had protested the October award in November, claiming the Air Force had not properly assessed and valued their proposed production improvements.

Auditors at the congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO), however, said the Air Force’s decision followed procedure and denied the protest.

“GAO reviewed the challenges to the selection decision raised by Boeing and has found no basis to sustain or uphold the protest,” the agency said. “In denying Boeing’s protest, GAO concluded that the technical evaluation, and the evaluation of costs, was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and in accordance with procurement laws and regulations.”

Congressional auditor findings are not binding on executive branch agencies – due to the separation of powers in U.S. government – but they nonetheless carry great weight and receive widespread deference. Executive branch agencies often follow their recommendations. And while Boeing or Lockheed still could sue the Air Force in federal court over Northrop’s award, the court system often looks to GAO’s decision as a guidepost.

Boeing remained unbowed. “We continue to believe that our offering represents the best solution for the Air Force and the nation, and that the government’s selection process was fundamentally and irreparably flawed,” said a Boeing statement. “We will carefully review the GAO’s decision and decide upon our next steps with regard to the protest in the coming days.”

Northrop, not surprisingly, said it was “pleased” and “delighted” to resume work on the future bomber. “This confirms that the U.S. Air Force conducted an extraordinarily thorough selection process and selected the most capable and affordable solution,” spokesman Randy Belote said.

A Pentagon spokesman told reporters that the GAO decision affirms the Air Force’s award. “From our standpoint, we were confident in the original decision,” Peter Cook said.

Elsewhere, several analysts and observers said they were not shocked at the outcome. Defense investor analyst Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners had wagered only a 15% chance of a successful protest before the announcement. “Not a surprise,” he said on the news.

“For Northrop Grumman, the primary issue now that GAO has rendered its decision is to develop the aircraft and its systems within cost and schedule estimates,” Callan continued. “This remains a risk, in our view, for the 2018-2020 time frame given the pace of the program.”
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Boeing remained unbowed. “We continue to believe that our offering represents the best solution for the Air Force and the nation, and that the government’s selection process was fundamentally and irreparably flawed,” said a Boeing statement.


Sounds verbatim to NGs protest of the Paper B767 Tanker project over the proven A330 platform.
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Air Force just tweeted a picture of the LRS-B, now officially named the B-21.

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Unsurprisingly they worked off the B-2 and X-47B.
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I would have bet good money that it was going to be named the B-3. Shows what I know.

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Meet the B-21 Bomber, Formerly Known As LRS-B
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Air Force Secretary Deborah James revealed a concept drawing of the new U.S. bomber, which will be built by Northrop Grumman, at the Air Force Association’s annual air warfare symposium in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 26.

Based on the size, it is likely that scaled-up technologies and components could be drawn from the still-classified RQ-180 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicle. But unlike other recent Northrop designs, the B-21 does not appear to be a cranked kite design. Rather, it resembles the original B-2 design and appears to be a twin. That was intentional, James noted in her speech.

“The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology,” James said. She added that the Air Force will be accepting suggestions for the name of the new bomber and announce them at the Air Force Association conference in September.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are not expected to file a lawsuit to challenge the loss of the $80 billion Long-Range Strike Bomber contract award to Northrop Grumman last October. On Feb. 16, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a contract protest by the two companies.

Boeing had argued that the Air Force’s evaluation of the price in the cost-reimbursement contract of $21.4 billion in 2010 dollars for the engineering and management development phase of the contract was flawed, according to the GAO.

While the production cost of the first 21 aircraft remains classified, the Air Force has said “the fixed price production award supports the average per-unit cost of $511 million per aircraft,” according to a statement from the GAO’s Ralph White.

With the go-ahead from the GAO, the program has entered development. The Air Force plans to begin fielding the B-21 in the mid-2020s.
Wait, don't tell me they are calling it B-21 because there are 21 on order.
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Pratt Leads List Of Seven B-21 Suppliers
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Air Force Secretary Deborah James listed seven key subcontractors on the B-21 bomber program March 7, including Pratt & Whitney, the likely maker of the engine for the long-range aircraft.

Pratt, located in East Hartford, Connecticut, was the likely choice for the engine. As Bill Sweetman has reported, the company has talked about a PW9000 engine that has a medium bypass ratio of about 4:1. A study of the PW9000, which formed the basis for the PW1000G commercial engine, was associated with the Next-Generation Bomber program canceled by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009. The engine could also be based on the F135.

The work that the six additional contractors would work on is a bit of guesswork.
BAE Systems’s Nashua, New Hampshire, branch focuses on electronic systems. Given that background, its likely contribution would be toward the electronic warfare aspects of the aircraft, according to Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners.

Orbital ATK’s Dayton, Ohio, facility makes radomes. The company is also supposed to do work at its Clearfield, Utah location. Callan notes that Orbital provides upper and lower wing skins and nacelle components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. GKN Aerospace of St. Louis has supplied sections of the X-47’s fuselage, Callan notes.

Spirit Aerosystems of Wichita is another supply aerostructures supplier. Rockwell Collins has depth and expertise in communications and datalinks. And Janicki Industries brings expertise in tooling and fabricate production.

Northrop Grumman also brings plenty to the table and could integrate avionics and provide its own radar.

James, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s top military procurement official, declined to elaborate on further details, such as where final assembly will take place. Northrop Grumman has indicated, however, that it has plenty of floor space at its Palmdale, California, facility to assemble the aircraft.

Given ongoing concerns by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), James and Bunch reiterated the reasons why the cost-plus incentive contract for the program’s initial phase was preferable to the fixed-price. In terms of risk, the B-21 falls “somewhere in between” the KC-46A tanker and the B-2 bomber, on which Bunch was test pilot. The KC-46A was relatively low-risk given that it is derived from a still-in-production commercial aircraft and losses to Boeing could be offset by Foreign Military Sales, Bunch said. The B-2 was higher risk because the airframe, the technologies and the integration were all new. With the B-21, the challenge is in integrating existing technologies into a new airframe, he added.

In response to a question about why the B-21 looks similar to the B-2, Bunch said a blended wing design met the requirements laid out by the Air Force. “There’s nothing special there. It’s worked,” he said. “It’s been successful, and it continues.”
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B-21 = 21st Century Bomber.

That is my guess.
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Northrop Grumman massively underbid the B-21 contract because it was cost-plus: CRS report.
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USAF Reserve Eyes Future B-21 Stealth Bomber Mission
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The U.S. Air Force Reserve is nudging its way into the heavy bomber mission and has its sights firmly set on the Northrop Grumman B-21 stealth bomber. Last October, Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) stood up its first B-1B Lancer unit at Dyess AFB in central Texas. The group flew the Consolidated B-24 Liberator during World War II and has reactivated 70 years later to support the nonnuclear B-1B mission in association with the local 7th Bomb Wing.

The activation was no coincidence; rather, it is part of a expansion within the bomber force as the Reserve’s long-standing tactical airlift mission shrinks along with the Air Force’s Lockheed Martin C-130 inventory, which has dropped to 300 airframes in recent years from about 500.

In an interview with Aviation Week at the Pentagon on July 11, his last as Air Force Reserve chief, Lt. Gen. James Jackson said his force is looking beyond its current configuration to prepare for future operations. He says the part-time “citizen airmen” are growing their bomber ranks while also stepping into the Lockheed F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and BoeingKC-46 Pegasus. The Reserve might eventually lose more C-130s and all 55 of its Fairchild Republic A-10 “Warthog” attack aircraft, but Jackson says plenty of other missions and airframes are on the horizon.

Reservists—numbering approximately 69,000—account for 14% of the air branch’s total force, with the service often signing up retiring active-duty pilots, maintainers and mission specialists, as well as training new civilians. Jackson says these part-time airmen make great flight instructors and maintainers because they move around less frequently than their active-duty counterparts and become very proficient with specific weapons such as the B-52H and F-22A.

The Reserve is assigned 332 aircraft, including 18 B-52 strategic bombers, and Jackson says it wants to play a role with the B-21 as it becomes operational in the next decade.

“We currently have a large portion of the B-52 schoolhouse at Barksdale [AFB in Louisiana]. We’ve recently stood up our first B-1 association at Dyess,” he says. “Basically, Barksdale and Dyess are the two locations where we think we can assess, attain and retain airmen from the active-duty [force] and the outside and then have a footprint in that Long-Range Strike Bomber mission.”

Similarly, Jackson says the Reserve is stepping up its contribution to nonairframe missions such as cyberwarfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. It also has units at Creech AFB, Nevada, and Hurlburt Field, Florida, supporting global MQ-9 Reaper surveillance and strike missions, but they are not assigned aircraft.

In terms of new aircraft, AFRC supports F-22 operations at Tyndall AFB in Florida and Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and some of those airmen are deployed abroad with Raptor groups fighting the so-called Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria. Reserve tankers and airlifters are also supporting that military effort.

“What we bring to that fight is not the aircraft, it’s the manpower, experience, and the capability to train maintainers at those locations,” he says. “Though we are the smaller part of the manpower at those two [Raptor] locations, we have the majority of the F-22 instructor pilots and weapons school officers.”

At Hill AFB in Utah, reservists are flying and maintaining the F-35A as Air Combat Command prepares to declare initial operational capability.

The Air Force is short some 4,000 maintainers, and Jackson says the active-duty force is now leaning increasingly on the reserve component to “fill that maintenance bathtub” both at Hill at the weapons school and at the training range at Nellis AFB in Nevada. It is also freeing up active-duty servicemen for the Lightning II by assuming more of the A-10 mission at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. Congress has so far prevented the Air Force from retiring the much-favored attack aircraft, but the service’s fiscal 2017 force structure submission pulls 27 A-10s from the reserve group at Whiteman AFB in Missouri beginning in 2018 and another 28 from the A-10 formal training unit at Davis-Monthan in 2020. If the changes are approved by Congress, the units will trade their A-10s for Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcons.

To implement C-130 cuts, the Reserve unit at Niagara, New York, is due to trade eight Hercules airlifters for eight Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers beginning next year. Another group at Pittsburgh will switch its eight C-130s for an equivalent number of Boeing C-17s in 2019.


Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina has been named as the first reserve base for Air Mobility Command’s Boeing KC-46A aerial refueling tanker. That unit begins drawing down next year to 12 KC-135s from 16 before accepting a dozen KC-46s in fiscal 2020. The Reserve operates 70 Stratotankers, a type that first flew 60 years ago.

Delivery of the first operational KC-46s is being delayed significantly because of development and certification troubles. However, Jackson says reservists at Seymour Johnson and at other KC-46 test and training locations are making preparations for the KC-46 to be “successful from day one.” He adds, “When the airframes arrive, we’ll be stood up and ready.”

To achieve modernization, Jackson says reserve aircraft upgrades need to keep pace with the active-duty force so that the “total force” is balanced. Air Mobility Command is in the final stages of formulating a C-130 modernization plan that includes center wing box replacements, and potentially eight-blade propeller upgrades, and even some new J-models. Meanwhile, Air Combat Command is figuring out how to keep the F-16 militarily and structurally relevant for longer because of the slower F-35 ramp-up.

“We know that [F-35] time line is going to be stretched to the right. We know we are going to have to keep F-16s capable and able to fight the fight for a longer amount of time,” Jackson says. “We have got to recapitalize our fleet on par with the active duty as much as possible because if you leave one of your three components behind, it is just going to be even more expensive and you are going to lose more capability.”

Jackson will retire on Aug. 1 after 38 years of military service. His current deputy-—and soon-to-be successor—Maj. Gen. Maryanne Miller takes command on July 15.
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Budget Gridlock Could Derail B-21 Bomber
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Faced with the prospect that Congress will once again fail to pass a budget on time this year, the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force is warning that long-term budget gridlock could derail the next-generation B-21 bomber.

The Air Force’s research and development funding stream for the fledgling B-21 program is set to almost double in fiscal 2017 from this year’s levels, from just over $700m to almost $1.4 billion. But if the Pentagon is forced to operate under a stopgap spending measure for an extended period of time, funding for Northrop Grumman to engineer and develop the B-21 will be capped at fiscal 2016 levels, said Secretary Deborah Lee James during an Aug. 10 briefing at the Pentagon.

This budget cap will severely limit development in a key design phase, risking a critical deterrence capability the Air Force hopes to field in the 2020s, James said.

The B-21 is just one of many modernization programs that would feel the brunt of a long-term continuing resolution (CR), a short-term measure Congress uses to fund the government when lawmakers fail to reach a compromise on annual budget negotiations. James said she is hearing that a six-month or even year-long CR is “at least a possibility.”

In the event of a long-term CR, production of Boeing’s KC-46 tanker would be capped at 12 aircraft instead of the 15 the service planned to buy in fiscal 2017, James said. This would not only delay the operational fielding of a sorely needed platform to replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135s and KC-10s, but also could risk breaking the terms of the KC-46 contract, which caps the service’s liability at $4.9 billion.

“If we couldn’t purchase the same number that contractually we were supposed to, would that re-open the contract?” James said. “That’s a serious question, because of course we do have favorable terms and we don’t want to re-open the contract or change the requirements in any way.”

Boeing’s production of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions the Air Force relies on to fight Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East also will be capped at fiscal 2016 quantities, limiting the capacity to surge to meet new demands on the battlefield.

“We feel that is unacceptable, particularly in light of current operations against Daesh and other extremists around the world,” James said.

In all, more than 60 new-start and upgrade programs could be affected by a long-term CR, including improvements to the MQ-9 Reaper, the C-130, as well as the B-2 and B-52 bombers, James warned. Several military construction projects, for instance the beddown of the F-35A, also are at risk, she said.

This is not the first time James has sounded the alarm over budget gridlock. Last year, she warned that a long-term CR would affect 50 large and small Air Force programs, including the UH-1N Huey replacement, F-35 production and software development, and several space programs.

Still, James’ comments on the looming CR echo the concerns of budget experts across Washington. Todd Harrison, a budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said recently that “we will almost certainly start the fiscal year in a continuing resolution yet again.”

However, Harrison said it is unlikely the CR will last beyond the end of the Obama administration.
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The Name Of The USAF's New B-21 Stealth Bomber Is...
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Raider.

Like how Hollywood is running out of ideas and rehashing old properties over and over, the USAF is doing the same when it comes to naming aircraft. Globemaster III, Thunderbolt II, Lightning II (and the YF-22 wore that name before the F-35!) and so on. With this in mind it would have been nice to have heard something really modern, sinister or reflective of the relatively huge number of roles that the B-21 is being designed to fulfill beyond just bombing. But it could have been worse I guess, so there's that.


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USAF’s Bomber Decision Came Down To Cost
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The U.S. Air Force’s decision to award the design and development of its next-generation stealth bomber to Northrop Grumman over a competing team led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin came down to the significantly lower price tag of Northrop’s bid, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Northrop’s proposed cost for the new bomber’s engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase was “substantially lower” than Boeing’s due to “Northrop’s corporate investment decisions,” according to the GAO’s heavily redacted ruling on Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s protest of the 2015 contract award. Northrop’s lower EMD costs were driven by the decision to absorb significant company investment, as well as lower labor rates and labor escalation rates compared to Boeing’s, GAO wrote. The exact values of the bids were redacted.

Both competitors significantly underbid government estimates, with the Air Force determining the final cost proposals were “unrealistic” for the design and engineering work required to build a new stealth bomber, according to GAO.

“Both offerors submitted cost proposals that I believe reflect aggressive attempts to achieve the lowest evaluated price in this competition,” according to the source selection decision document (SSDD) quoted by GAO. “Neither offeror substantiated that it could accomplish all necessary EMD efforts at its proposed cost for EMD.”

But it seems the Air Force was willing to accept some risk both on cost and schedule to get a better upfront price. Both initial EMD proposals were originally deemed “unacceptable” in terms of capability; after some negotiation, both proposals in their final forms were accepted, although weaknesses and related risks still remained. The Air Force flagged four weaknesses in Boeing’s final proposal, and ten in Northrop’s, GAO wrote.

The Air Force is clearly aware of the risks of choosing to go with the lower-priced bid, and in fact may even expect that Northrop’s B-21 “Raider” may not be able to stay on schedule, according to GAO.

“There exists some level of Air Force expectation that disruption of schedule may occur,” GAO wrote. “However, the Air Force nonetheless concluded that Northrop could still successfully execute its [redacted] approach with a [redacted] that would not appreciably increase the risk of unsuccessful contract performance.”

Northrop’s bid had a “substantial cost/price advantage,” the Air Force ultimately determined, according to GAO.

GAO also offers a scathing critique of Boeing’s protest, which the agency officially overturned in February. Boeing argued that the Air Force failed to consider risks inherent in Northrop’s approach that should have disqualified them; GAO found this claim was unsubstantiated. Further, Boeing alleged that the Air Force unreasonably rejected the company’s cost-cutting measures and used bad historical data to evaluate their proposal; GAO also found no basis for this.

In fact, despite Boeing’s claim that their proposal was unfairly penalized, the company’s bid was still much lower than most new aircraft programs, GAO notes. Boeing’s offer would represent the second lowest-cost new aircraft development effort in recent history—much lower than the B-1, B-2 or F-22, and higher only than the C-17, GAO wrote.

“Significant structural advantages in Northrop’s proposal—specifically, its labor rate advantage and decision to absorb significant company investment—also strongly impacted the outcome,” GAO concluded. “Northrop’s significantly lower proposed prices for the [Low Rate Initial Production] phase created a near-insurmountable obstacle to Boeing’s proposal achieving best-value, or to Boeing’s protest demonstrating prejudice in the cost realism evaluation.”

The B-21 will be procured using a two-part structure: a cost-plus contract with incentives for the EMD phase; and a firm fixed-price arrangement for initial production of the first five lots of aircraft. The Air Force plans to buy about 100 new bombers, at a capped unit price of $550 million.

“The GAO decision contains a detailed analysis of the source selection evaluation which led to the award of the B-21 contract to Northrop Grumman in October 2015, and confirms that the Air Force followed a deliberate, disciplined, and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and the taxpayer,” Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog II said in an email.

Northrop spokesman Randy Belote also stressed that the GAO ruling confirms the Air Force made the right decision.

“The public version of the opinion, from which classified and proprietary information has been removed, makes clear that the GAO performed a rigorous and deliberate review of the U.S. Air Force’s extraordinarily thorough selection process in which it chose the most capable and affordable solution,” he said.
Isn't this a novel idea.
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GAO On B-21: Air Force Took Risk In Picking Northrop
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In picking Northrop Grumman to build the U.S. Air Force’s multibillion-dollar, next-generation stealth bomber, the Pentagon was willing to accept risk in the new aircraft’s design and development phase in order to get a better upfront price, according to a recently declassified ruling by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Both competitors—Northrop and a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin—significantly underbid government estimates to design and develop the new long-range strike bomber, with the Air Force determining both final cost proposals were “unrealistic,” according to the GAO’s heavily redacted ruling on the losing team’s protest of the 2015 contract award. And in terms of capability, both offerings for the future aircraft’s engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase initially fell short, the GAO wrote.

The Air Force does not dispute the GAO’s assessment. But despite the risk of schedule and cost growth, the service is “comfortable” that Northrop’s design can meet the technical requirements of the B-21 at a reasonable price, says Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition.

Behind the Air Force’s Decision

The GAO’s recently declassified ruling shows both Northrop and Boeing-Lockheed significantly underbid government estimates to design and develop the new bomber

Final cost proposals were “unrealistic”

The Air Force accepted some program risk in order to get a better price · Service officials “comfortable” the contract structure will help control costs, schedule

“We have to take [cost] into account to make sure we are wisely using the taxpayer’s dollars,” Bunch said. “If we were not comfortable that technically it could be done, then we would have done something different.”The declassified ruling, released Oct. 25, confirms what many in the defense aerospace industry already suspected: that the Pentagon’s decision to award the B-21 to the company that built the world’s only existing stealth bomber came down to the significantly lower price tag of Northrop’s bid. The company’s proposed cost for the B-21’s EMD phase was “substantially lower” than Boeing’s due to “Northrop’s corporate investment decisions:” the choice to absorb significant company investment, as well as lower labor and labor escalation rates compared to Boeing’s, the GAO wrote. The exact amounts of the bids are classified.

Meanwhile, both offerings were initially deemed “unacceptable” in terms of capability. After some negotiation, both proposals were eventually accepted in their final forms, although weaknesses and related risks still remained, the GAO wrote. The Air Force flagged four weaknesses in Boeing’s final submission, and 10 in Northrop’s. But in the end, Northrop’s bid had a “substantial cost/price advantage,” the service determined.

The Air Force is clearly aware of the risks of choosing to go with the lower-priced bid, and in fact may even expect schedule disruptions as Northrop’s newly named B-21 “Raider” gets underway, according to the GAO.

“Both offerors submitted cost proposals that I believe reflect aggressive attempts to achieve the lowest evaluated price in this competition,” according to the source selection decision document quoted by the GAO. “Neither offeror substantiated that it could accomplish all necessary EMD efforts at its proposed cost for EMD.”

However, the Air Force believes it is prepared for any potential cost growth. The service budgeted to an independent cost estimate—$21.4 billion in 2010 dollars—rather than Northrop’s projection or the value of the contract award, which remains classified, Bunch says. This gives the government and the contractor some wiggle room in case the cost of the development program runs over.

Furthermore, the B-21 contract is purposely structured to minimize cost and schedule growth, and includes financial incentives for the contractor to meet its deadlines, Bunch says. The contract for the EMD phase is cost-plus with incentives, a structure frequently used for programs that carry a lot of technical risk; the arrangement for initial production of the first five lots of what will ultimately be about 100 aircraft is fixed-price, where the government sets the requirements and price and the contractor absorbs any cost overrun.

If Northrop does not control costs and schedule during the EMD phase, the contractor will not see any of the potential bonuses, Bunch says.

“We’ve informed the company: You’ve got the contract, now we need you to execute, and your incentive is tied to your execution,” he says.

Northrop CEO Wes Bush also expresses confidence that the company will be able to execute the program. Northrop recognized the importance of affordability in the bomber competition from the very beginning, Bush says, noting that the team worked hard to bring down indirect rates and overhead.

“It was so important to create a design from the beginning that would be inherently more affordable to build than some other previous programs had been,” Bush said during Northrop’s third quarter earnings call Oct. 26. “We were able to bid the program with a very mature design and a disciplined approach that connected returns to investments and really drove on affordability.”

The GAO does give the Air Force credit for conducting a comprehensive source selection process. The ruling offers a scathing critique of Boeing’s protest, which the agency officially overturned in February. The company argued that the Air Force failed to consider risks inherent in Northrop’s approach that should have disqualified them; GAO found this claim was unsubstantiated. Furthermore, Boeing alleged that the Air Force unreasonably rejected the company’s cost-cutting measures and used bad historical data to evaluate their proposal; the GAO found no basis for this also.

In fact, despite Boeing’s claim that their proposal was unfairly penalized, Boeing’s bid was still much lower than most new aircraft programs, the GAO notes. Boeing’s offer would represent the second lowest-cost new aircraft development effort in recent history—much lower than the B-1, B-2 or F-22, and higher only than the C-17, the GAO wrote.

“Northrop’s significantly lower proposed prices for the [Low-Rate Initial Production] phase created a near-insurmountable obstacle to Boeing’s proposal achieving best-value, or to Boeing’s protest demonstrating prejudice in the cost realism evaluation,” the GAO concludes.

The redacted GAO ruling confirms that the Air Force conducted a deliberate, fair and thorough evaluation of both proposals, according to Bunch.

“We have stuck to our guns, we thought we did a very deliberate process. This just reaffirms that now that it is out there for everybody to see, so we have been confident all along,” Bunch says, adding that the service will nonetheless take “lessons learned” from the process and use them to inform future programs.

Bush echoed Bunch’s comments during the third quarter earnings call, stressing that the GAO ruling shows the Air Force made the right decision.

“It makes it clear that the GAO did perform a very rigorous and deliberate review of the work that the Air Force did, and its very thorough selection process. And it, I thought, made the very compelling case of validating that the Air Force clearly chose the most capable and affordable solution,” Bush says.


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USAF Plans To Retire B-2s, B-1s As B-21 Comes Online
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The U.S. Air Force plans to retire its fleet of Rockwell B-1B and Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bombers in a “Bomber Vector” roadmap that will be laid out in the coming weeks.

As Northrop’s next-generation B-21 “Raider” comes online in the mid 2020s, the Air Force wants to phase out the nuclear-capable B-2 and conventional B-1, according to two sources with knowledge of the budget discussions.

In its budget blueprint for fiscal 2019, the Air Force also will invest heavily in multi-domain command and control, defense of space assets, and buy a number of OA-X light attack aircraft for low-end warfighting, the sources said. The President’s budget request for fiscal 2019 will be unveiled officially on Feb. 12.

In addition, the service will kill an effort to replace Northrop’s E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-Stars) surveillance and battle management fleet, and planned production rates of the F-35A will remain steady.

All of these efforts are subject to approval by Congress, and lawmakers likely will fight hard to keep the J-Stars re-cap effort alive.

There is no immediate plan to retire the Vietnam-era B-52 Stratofortress, the backbone of the Air Force’s bomber fleet, the sources said. The Air Force has spent more than half a century installing various avionics and weapons systems upgrades on the B-52, which came online in 1960 and 1961, allowing the aircraft to remain a critical contributor to the modern battlefield.

Most recently, the B-52 squadron fighting Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East received a key upgrade of the aircraft’s internal weapons bay, adding a conventional rotary launcher (CRL) that allows the bomber to drop eight additional smart bombs. The Air Force already has put this capability to use in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

Lawmakers recently have moved to bolster support for re-engining the B-52, which is currently powered by eight original Pratt & Whitney TF33-103 turbofan engines that are not sustainable beyond 2030. New engines would add range, reduce fuel burn and boost power generation.

At the same time, the addition of the next-generation, nuclear-tipped Long Range StandOff (LRSO) missile, which is planned to replace the Boeing AM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, will keep the B-52 relevant well into the century.
The new bomber roadmap is likely budget-driven, even as the Pentagon is set to receive its biggest funding hike in decades. Although the B-2 is decades younger than the B-52, the Air Force only has 20 of the newer bomber in the active force, and they are much costlier to operate.

“The point is, if they have an equivalent or better, stealthier plane in larger numbers, you get out from under the sustainment costs [of the B-2],” one source said. “It makes perfect sense.”

The Air Force has said it wants 100 B-21s, and a total force of 175 bombers.

Meanwhile, as the threat increases, the B-1 is no longer a penetrating bomber, the source said. The B-1 is labor-intensive to maintain and prohibited by treaty from carrying nuclear weapons.

“The B-1s have been on the chopping block as long as the new bomber has been in the air force plan,” said Rebecca Grant of IRIS Independent Research.

Another advantage of retiring the B-2s and B-1s is that it simplifies management and logistics—instead of having three types of bombers, the Air Force will have just two large fleets.


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FSC Oceania
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Fucking lol at the fact the B-52 is going to over fly the B-1/B-2's retirement services.
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Henry Dravot
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Next-Gen B-21 Bomber Gets Its First Software Drop
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The U.S. Air Force’s next-generation B-21 “Raider” recently got its first software drop, marking a small but important step toward fielding the software-intensive stealth bomber.

Northrop Grumman’s B-21 is progressing steadily through its engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the service’s top uniformed acquisition official, told lawmakers April 18. The program recently finished preliminary design review, and is well on its way to its next milestone, critical design review, he said.

This means the requirements and basic design of the aircraft should now be firm.

The first software drop has been delivered and a second release is in the works, Bunch said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee. An Air Force spokeswoman declined to specify which contractor delivered the software.

“Right now I’m very happy with how the program is progressing,” Bunch said.

On top of being on schedule, the program is also on cost. “It’s falling within the parameters of what we estimated the cost would be,” Bunch said.

The Air Force has disclosed few details about the B-21’s development since Northrop Grumman won the coveted EMD contract in October 2015. The service has kept the full value of the EMD contract under wraps, but has said it includes $23.5 billion for the development phase as well as the procurement of the first 21 bombers. The target per-unit price is about $550 million.

The Air Force requested $2.3 billion for development of the B-21, which is being procured through the service’s shadowy Rapid Capabilities Office, in its fiscal 2019 budget request.

The Raider will initially augment, and then replace, Air Force Global Strike Command’s legacy Boeing B-1 and Northrop B-2 fleets, flying alongside the B-52 well into the century. Global Strike hopes eventually to expand its bomber fleet to 175 or more aircraft.

The production target remains “at minimum” 100 B-21 bombers, and the first operational unit should be ready for service by the mid-2020s.
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