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Pentagon awards major bomber contract to Northrop Grumman

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(CNN) — The Pentagon took a major step toward upgrading its aging bomber fleet Tuesday, awarding the long-awaited contract to build the new Long Range Strike Bomber to Northrop Grumman.

Calling the Long Range Strike Bomber the “back bone” of the Air Force’s future strike and deterrence capabilities, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the new aircraft will help the U.S. to retain its ability to “project power across the globe now and into the future.”

“The age of our bomber fleet requires new thinking and new capabilities,” Carter said. “Building this bomber is a strategic investment for the next 50 years.”

Northrop Grumman is the developer of the Air Force’s current bomber, the B-2.

Since 2011, the Pentagon has said the LRS-B bomber will cost close to $550 million per airplane, projecting a $55 billion price total for 100 planes.

The program is the most expensive weapons system in the Air Force’s $17 billion research, development, test and evaluation funding request for 2016.

The Air Force expects the first Long Range Strike Bombers to be ready for combat by 2025.