The U.S. Air Force could release within days a final request for proposals for the service's next-generation strategic bomber, a senior official said.
A solicitation published soon would put officials on track to receive industry bids in the fall and finish evaluating them sometime early next year, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante was quoted by Defense News as saying on Friday at the Atlantic Council in Washington. A contract award for the multibillion-dollar project is envisioned in the first half of 2015, LaPlante said.
Initiation of the long-range strike bomber program comes as the Pentagon continues to grapple with money problems. The bomber portfolio, in particular, is set to eat a substantial chunk of the budget because the air service is planning costly upgrades to existing aircraft while beginning to spend funds on the follow-on bomber at the same time.
LaPlante emphasized that the acquisition approach to the new program would be modular, meaning that new capabilities can be installed on the aircraft at any given time, even after the initial design phase is complete, Defense News reported.
The Pentagon wants to have the new, nuclear-capable bomber operational in the mid-2020s.