The Air Force is “days away” from releasing the final request for proposals (RFP) for its multi-billion dollar next-generation bomber program, according to a top official.

But Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition William LaPlante provided Friday a small caveat, saying “I’m learning in the Pentagon days away can go on for a long time, but hopefully, this really is days away.”

A B-2 bomber prepares for aerial refueling. Photo: Air Force.
A B-2 bomber prepares for aerial refueling. Photo: Air Force.

LaPlante told an audience at the Atlantic Council think tank in downtown Washington the schedule includes getting proposals by the end of summer or early fall and getting source selection finalized early 2015. LaPlante said the new bomber, often called the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRSB), is being designed around a “pretty fixed” set of requirements with relatively mature technologies.

The Air Force has pegged the new bomber’s price tag at $550 million each. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said he’s fending off people who want to add “this or that” to the bomber in an effort to control costs. The Air Force wants between 80 and 100 new bombers, which could bring a total procurement range between $44 billion and $55 billion.

LaPlante said the service will build the first version knowing it’s not going to have everything in it the Air Force wants. It will feature an adaptable approach, LaPlante said, with open architecture enabling the service to customize sensors and future capabilities.

“In other words, anticipate what we did with the F-16, where when you look inside an F-16, it’s nothing like an F-16 when it first came up,” LaPlante said.

The tandem of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA] have announced their intent to compete for the program. B-2 developer Northrop Grumman [NOC] is rumored to be interested, but the company has not officially declared its entry (Defense Daily, March 27).