Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

Lockheed, Raytheon Win Contracts for New Nuclear Cruise Missile

  • Boeing left out in contest for successor to its weapon
  • Long-Range Standoff Missile seen valued at $10 billion

Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. were picked by the U.S. Air Force to begin development of a new nuclear cruise missile for long-range bombers, while Boeing Co. was shut out of the effort to replace its aging weapon that’s in use today.

The initial contracts of about $900 million each are for a 54-month phase to refine designs and prove out technologies for the Long-Range Standoff missile, Captain Emily Grabowski, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in a statement Wednesday.

After that, the Air Force will pick one of the contractors for full production of as many as 1,000 missiles -- not all of them topped by nuclear warheads -- in an acquisition phase the service values at about $10 billion.

“This weapon will modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear triad,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in the statement. “Deterrence works if our adversaries know that we can hold at risk things they value. This weapon will enhance our ability to do so, and we must modernize it cost-effectively.”

While President Donald Trump tweeted this month that the U.S. nuclear arsenal “is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before,” he was referring to a project that actually will take decades: The new cruise missile would be deployed in the late 2020s for use on B-52, B-2 and B-1 bombers. It’s part of a modernization of the U.S. nuclear triad of air, land and sea weapons that has a 30-year timeline and an expected cost of at least $1 trillion.

Boeing’s Disappointment

The decision Wednesday was a setback for Boeing, which in the 1980s developed and fielded the AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile that’s now in use.

The company “is disappointed it was not chosen” because “our offering leveraged Boeing’s advanced cruise missile expertise on other successful programs,” spokeswoman Deborah VanNierop said in an email. “We look forward to learning more from the Air Force regarding the decision.”

The announcement came two days after the Air Force awarded development contracts to Boeing and Northrop Grumman Corp. to refine concepts for a new intercontinental ballistic missile to replace the silo-based Minuteman III. The Pentagon’s independent cost-analysis group last year estimated that acquisition program might cost at least $85 billion.

With this week’s awards, the outlines of the Pentagon’s long-range nuclear modernization program are emerging. The Defense Department published in May the first official cost report for the 12-vessel Columbia-class nuclear-missile submarines, estimated as a $127 billion acquisition program.

The Congressional Budget Office is working on its first 30-year look at the cost to develop, acquire and sustain a new nuclear arsenal. While lawmakers and analysts have estimated it’s a $1 trillion program, the Arms Control Association last week projected the potential cost through 2047 at as much as $1.46 trillion.

— With assistance by Nafeesa Syeed

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