The U.S. Air Force released a request for proposals (RFP) for its secretive Long Range Strike-Bomber program on Wednesday.
The RFP will lead to the “competitive selection” of a prime contractor for the new bomber in the spring of 2015 according to the service.
“The LRS-B is a top modernization priority for the Air Force. It will be an adaptable and highly capable system based upon mature technology,” Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James said in a statement released to USNI News on Thursday.
“We look forward to industry’s best efforts in supporting this critical national security capability.”
The Air Force will not say when the proposals are due or release any other information about the project, which has been run as a classified program since 2011.
The Air Force hopes to procure between 80 and 100 of the new stealth bombers at cost of roughly $550 million each.
However, very little specific information is known about the LRS-B except that it will likely be a very long-range subsonic aircraft with broadband stealth capability designed to defeat low-frequency radars as effectively as high frequency sets.
The aircraft will also eventually be certified to carry nuclear weapons and is being designed as part of a Long Range Strike family of systems—and not as an aircraft designed to penetrate into the most heavily defended airspace all by itself.
The LRS-B was originally intended to be “optionally manned” bomber, but the Air Force has indicated the aircraft will be at least initially manned.
Northrop Grumman and a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team are the likely competitors to build the new bomber.