WASHINGTON, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force plans to pick a single U.S. industry team to build a new long-range bomber next year, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer said on Wednesday.
“The intention is to down-select to one,” Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall told reporters after a speech at the annual Air Force Association conference.
He said the Air Force expected to make a decision sometime next year about which company or team would build the new bomber but did not provide any specific timetable.
The Air Force has been unusually tight-lipped about the bomber program, saying only that it plans to buy as many as 100 new bombers for no more than $550 million each. U.S. arms makers have been working on classified contracts preparing for the new program for several years, but few details have emerged.
The Air Force said on July 10 it had released a formal request for proposals for the bomber and planned to select a winner in the spring of 2015. It provided no details, and declined even to say when the bids were due.
Chris Chadwick, president and chief executive of Boeing Co’s $33 billion Defense, Space and Security division, told the conference on Wednesday that his company was working closely on its bid with Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon’s biggest supplier.
Northrop Grumman Corp, maker of the B-2 stealth bomber, also plans to compete.
Chadwick said Boeing decided to team up with Lockheed so the two companies could benefit from various technologies developed for other weapons programs and avoid “reinventing” things that had already been accomplished.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with our partnership,” Chadwick told the conference. “It really adds a different and better value proposition.”
Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Steve Orlofsky