GAO confirms bomber deal for Northrop Grumman

A shrouded next-gen something or other from a recent Northrop Grumman television ad.

The General Accounting Office has sealed the deal: Northrop Grumman will build the nation’s next long-range bomber.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which lost the initial bid last year and appealed, should move on, the GAO ruled on Tuesday. Although the firms can still pursue the matter in court, and may.

No surprise if they do: The contract is worth at least $80 billion and maybe $100 million or more, depending on how the Pentagon jiggers the math and how many planes Congress authorizes the defense department to ultimately buy.

The Air Force set out to build 100 planes at an average cost of $550 million per plane. But that was in 2010 dollars; adjusted for inflation, the real price tag will be around $600 million per copy. Throw in another $23.5 billion in R&D costs, maintenance and the money the Pentagon has already spent on getting the program this far, and the total is around $100 billion, according to defense analysts.

That’s a big number, especially considering that the bomber isn’t the only major combat aircraft the Pentagon is building. In addition to the $400 billion F-35 fighter program, the Air Force is spending $40 billion+ on new refueling planes, and it wants a new trainer and updates on Air Force One and the E-8 JSTARS battle management system.

That’s an awful lot of spending in an era of tight defense budgets. Could it lead to sticker shock for Congress?

Northrop Grumman hasn’t been taking any chances. Its web site, americasnewbomber.com, has urged Americans to write the president and Congress to keep the bomber program on track.

“America’s adversaries have developed sophisticated defense strategies and technologies to neutralize America’s air superiority,” the site warns visitors. “Stealth bombers can destroy these defenses and ensure that our enemies can’t hide.”

“Any effort to disrupt this crucial program can jeopardize national security.”

Long Islanders have their own vested interest. Several Long Island defense firms said privately they expect to see work from the contract, which will likely extend for a decade or more.

At the time of the award, Jamie Moore, president of Hauppauge-based ADDAPT, an alliance of technology based aerospace and defense companies, called it “a very good shot” that some of the work would come here, noting the quality of the local supply chain and the region’s long history with Northrop Grumman.

“Many of the capabilities this contract will require exist on Long Island and, in some cases, only exit here,” he told Innovate LI.