Boeing, Lockheed collaborate on bomber plans

ST. LOUIS — The Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. said Friday that they are teaming up to research and develop an anticipated program to build the U.S. Air Force's next-generation long-range bomber.

The Air Force has yet to firm up its requirements for the new bomber but Boeing and Lockheed Martin are already hoping to get ahead of the competition in the bid to design and build the new aircraft.

"There will be a program," Boeing spokesman Chris Haddox said. "It's a matter of when."

The Air Force has said it's looking to have a "next generation" long-range bomber by 2018. It has publicly stated what it's looking for in requirements, although that could change.

The Air Force has said it needs a subsonic, manned bomber that could travel 2,000 miles before refueling. And, it says the system should have a weapons payload of from 14,000 to 28,000 pounds of bombs.

The current bomber fleet is getting old. The most recent B-2 bomber technology started in the 1970s, and its first delivery was in the early 1990s, Haddox said.

When the "next generation" bomber goes online in 2018, the current bomber technology will be 40 years old.

Boeing has built bombers since 1935, including the famed B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-29 "Superfortress" bombers of World War II. It also produced the first swept-wing multiengine jet-powered bomber, the B-47, and the B-52, which first flew in 1952 and is still in Air Force service.

Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Md., works with advanced technology systems, products and services.

"We're saying that together, we make the strongest team to pursue the 'next generation' bomber for the Air Force," Haddox said.

The most obvious competitor would be Los Angeles-based large-aircraft producer Northrop Grumman Corp. The company issued a statement Friday saying, in part, it "is prepared to compete for any emerging program when it occurs."

Boeing and Lockheed Martin have collaborated on other projects, including the Air Force's F-22 Raptor, a new fighter aircraft that will replace the F15. They also teamed up on the Small Diameter Bomb Increment II, which allows a "smart bomb" to hit a moving target.

The companies' efforts for a long-range bomber program will include work in advanced radar and electronic warfare. That will include battle management, command and control and virtual warfare simulation.

It could be 12 to 18 months before the Air Force makes the requirements for the Bomber 2018 known. Haddox said the collaboration is an attempt to get ahead of the game.

Boeing is based in Chicago, but its defense unit is based in St. Louis.

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