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Boeing, Lockheed team up for new US Air Force bomber

A stealth F-35 fighter jet releases a bomb in a test range in Maryland in this August 8, 2012 file photo. REUTERS
The online news portal of TV5

WASHINGTON - Boeing and Lockheed Martin said Friday they have teamed up to bid for a new US Air Force bomber program estimated to be worth as much as $55 billion.

Boeing is acting as the prime contractor, and Lockheed is the main teammate in the bid to supply the Air Force's Long-Range Strike Bomber program, the companies said in a joint statement.

"Boeing and Lockheed Martin are bringing together the best of the two enterprises, and the rest of industry, in support of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program, and we are honored to support our US Air Force customer and this important national priority," said Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

Air force spokesman Ed Gulick said the program aims to build between 80 and 100 of the new, long-range stealthy bombers, a top priority as the US military seeks to replace its aging bomber fleet.

The planes are to become part of the fleet after 2020, Gulick said.

Estimates put the value of each plane at $550 million.

Both US companies have projects underway for the air force. Boeing is developing the KC-46 refueling tanker and Lockheed is working on the newest stealth F-35 fighter jet.

"The team will be able to produce unique and affordable solutions that could not be achieved without partnering," they said.

In 2011, then-defense secretary Robert Gates launched the next-generation bomber project. According to the Pentagon, the new bomber should be designed using "proven technologies" to create a long-range, nuclear-capable and optionally remotely piloted aircraft that will be able to operate and survive in highly contested areas densely protected by air defenses.

The air force has budgeted $292 million in fiscal year 2013 that ended September 30, and $379 million in fiscal 2014 for its development.

"We're confident that our team will meet the well-defined system requirements and deliver a world-class next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber to the US Air Force within the budget and timeframe required," said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

Shares in Dow member Boeing were up 1.5 percent and Lockheed's stock gained 0.7 percent in afternoon trade in New York.