One of the most expensive projects in the Pentagon's history has been awarded to Northrop Grumman. The company won the bid to build the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) at a cost that could top $80 billion, reports the Los Angeles Times. Northrop will get more than $20 billion to develop the bomber—which will replace aging B-1s and B-52s—plus $564 million per plane with 80 to 100 currently planned, reports Popular Mechanics. However, the cost of the project could spike if Northrop's record is any indication: The Pentagon initially planned for 132 Northrop-built B-2s in the 1980s, but ended up with 21 when costs skyrocketed to $2 billion per unit. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter says the LRS-B will be the "backbone" of the Air Force with "initial operational capability" in 2025. It should be ready to fly by 2040.
Because there's no way to know what might be necessary in a bomber in 2040, the LRS-B will be "adaptable," says the Air Force's chief of staff. Military officials say it will be able to fly nuclear weapons and perhaps operate as a drone. Northrop earlier said the project could create 1,400 new jobs in Palmdale, Calif.—where Northrop also built the B-2—and the city's mayor says "we're very excited." Northrop's chairman seemed to expect the Pentagon's decision, telling the Times, "We're ready to get to work." But some industry experts were a bit shocked that the company beat out a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team, which had impressive political connections and funding. That team says it's talking with the Air Force "before determining our next steps," but analysts expect it to challenge the decision.