Categories: Military Aviation

Here’s why the U.S. Government Accountability Office has rejected Boeing protest of Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber contract

Northrop Grumman proposal for the next U.S. Air Force stealth bomber had “significant structural advantages” over competing proposal by Boeing and Lockheed Martin

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has explained why Boeing protest against the award of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber contract to Northrop Grumman is fundamentally flawed.

As a matter of fact, after the award to Northrop Grumman of the then LRS-B (Long Range Strike-Bomber) contract on Oct. 27, 2015, Boeing (that teamed up with Lockheed Martin to win the bid) went to the GAO (whose aim is hearing appeals to competitive bids for Pentagon contracts) claiming that Northrop Grumman “low-balled” its bid and that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) failed to consider the risks posed when it chose Northrop Grumman over the joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

As highlighted by Bloomberg.com on Oct. 25, 2016, the agency rejected Boeing’s allegations in a heavily redacted 52-page ruling, where it is explained that the “significantly lower proposed prices” for initial production offered by Northrop Grumman “created a near-insurmountable obstacle” to Boeing “demonstrating prejudice” in the Air Force’s calculation of realistic costs.

Furthermore the GAO added that Northrop Grumman proposal for the next U.S. Air Force stealth bomber had “significant structural advantages” over competing proposal by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

For these reasons the agency rejected Boeing’s claim “that the Air Force failed to reasonably account for Northrop’s technical risk” in its analysis of costs. On the contrary it was remarked that USAF “conducted a reasonable” evaluation of costs “that sufficiently incorporated consideration of each” company’s “unique approach.”

Hence the GAO General Counsel Susan Poling’s conclusion who explained that their review “of Boeing’s allegations and the evaluation record in this case provides no basis on which to sustain the protest.”

The B-21 Raider will play a crucial role in allowing USAF to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment, and in providing the service the flexibility and capability to launch from the continental United States and deliver air strikes on any location in the world.

Once ready, the first prototype of the B-21 will be the first manned aircraft built by Northrop Grumman since the company B-2 bomber which was developed in the 1980s. Due to be deployed in the mid-2020s, the Raider will join the small fleet of B-2 Spirits and will replace B-1B Lancer and B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force 

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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