UPDATE 1-Gates sees new US bomber fielded in 2020s

(Adds Gates quotes, analyst comment, background)

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert
Gates said on Tuesday he did not expect a new bomber for the
U.S. Air Force to be fielded until the late 2020s, a decade
later than the previous Pentagon plan.

Gates said the Pentagon would study exactly what was needed
in the new bomber before proceeding, including whether the
bomber would be manned or unmanned, and would fly close to
targets or stand off.

In the meantime, the Pentagon would upgrade its existing
fleet of B-2 and B-52 bombers, he told the Senate Armed
Services Committee.

“We’re talking about a bomber that would probably not
appear into the force until the late ’20s,” Gates told the
Senate Armed Services Committee. “We’re just trying to figure
out, looking ahead a generation, what the right form — what
the right configuration for that would be.”

Asked why the Pentagon needed to further study the issue
after previous reviews, Gates told the committee that earlier
work had examined whether to build a new bomber, while this
review was focused on what exactly was needed.

Companies like Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N: ), Boeing Co
(BA.N: ) and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: ) are hoping to bid for
possible work on the new bomber, one of very few new weapons
programs on the horizon at a time when the defense budget is
expected to face mounting pressure.

The Pentagon’s previous plans had called for a new bomber
to be fielded in 2018.

Gates’ new date indicates the program will get started and
move into production nearly a decade later.

Gates told reporters on Monday that the Pentagon expected
to spend “some $4 billion over the next 5 fiscal years for a
number of long-range strike programs,” including development of
a new conventional bomber, and upgrades and modernization of
the current bombers.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2011 budget includes $200 million for
initial work on maturing technologies that could be used for a
new bomber, and a total of $1.7 billion from 2011-2015.

Air Force officials said on Monday the initial funding in
2011 would help maintain the bomber industrial base as the
military decided what exactly was needed to maintain the U.S.
military’s ability to hit long-range targets.

Defense analyst Loren Thompson of the Virginia-based
Lexington Institute said the $1.7 billion would be focused on
development of the new bomber, with the remaining funding
referenced by Gates to be used for other long-range strike
capabilities in the “family” of systems the Pentagon wants.

Stock Market Report

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Richard Chang)

UPDATE 1-Gates sees new US bomber fielded in 2020s