Everybody Back to Work

Northrop Grumman said it’s “pleased” that the Government Accountability Office rejected Boeing’s protest of the Long-Range Strike Bomber award Tuesday and is “delighted to be resuming work” on the project. The Air Force was required to issue a stop-work order on the program on Nov. 6 of last year, when Boeing filed its GAO protest. Northrop was obliged to absorb the expense of keeping its design team together during the nearly three-month delay in the program, and the Air Force reduced its Fiscal 2017 budget request for LRS-B because it would not be able to execute the program as planned. However, in its fourth-quarter earnings report earlier this month, Northrop officials said work on the LRS-B will ramp up slowly during this fiscal year. The Air Force’s 2017 budget request calls for $12.1 billion to be spent on developing the LRS-B during the next five years. A first “usable asset” is supposed to be available circa 2024-2025, with initial operational capability in the late 2020s. The Air Force said early on that it would seek 80-100 LRS-Bs, but has now locked down on a program of 100 aircraft. Industry officials said it is unlikely that Northrop would be asked to stop work on the project again, unless Boeing presses and wins a case in federal claims court.