Aviation

Spirit AeroSystems named as contractor on new bomber

The identity of contractors on the B-21 program, led by Northrop Grumman, was revealed Monday by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James at a briefing with reporters in Washington.
The identity of contractors on the B-21 program, led by Northrop Grumman, was revealed Monday by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James at a briefing with reporters in Washington. Courtesy image

Spirit AeroSystems was named as one of seven subcontractors Monday to the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber program.

The identity of contractors on the B-21 program, led by Northrop Grumman, was revealed Monday by Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James at a media briefing in Washington.

The six other contractors are Pratt & Whitney, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Janicki Industries, Rockwell Collins and Orbital ATK.

James said Pratt & Whitney will manufacture the bomber’s engines.

“The other six will work on airframe or mission systems,” she said in the briefing. “That is the totality of the information I’m able to share on this aspect at this time.”

A Spirit spokesman said Monday the company would not comment on James’ announcement.

Northrop was named the program’s prime contractor in October 2015. It competed against a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team for the program aimed at replace an aging fleet that includes B-2 and B-52 bombers.

The Eagle reported Feb. 27 that two financial analysts speculated Spirit had won some work on the new bomber, following a Feb. 17 filing Spirit made with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which Spirit said it was lowering its free cash flow guidance for 2016 “to reflect investments anticipated in connection with a recently awarded significant restricted contract.”

“We do not expect revenue potential to be significant for SPR (Spirit) for a few years, but it is positive for the company’s diversification efforts,” Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Sam Pearlstein wrote in a Feb. 22 note to investors.

The total cost of the B-21 contract is classified. The Government Accountability Office said there are two parts – an engineering phase with an estimated value of $21.4 billion in 2010 dollars, and options to build the first 21 bombers. The Air Force hasn’t given a cost for producing the first 21 planes but has said that if 100 planes were built, the average cost per plane would be $511 million in 2010 dollars.

Spirit, which in Wichita makes all parts of Boeing airliners, including 70 percent of its best-selling 737, is a little more than two years into an effort to expand its business in defense contracting under current CEO Larry Lawson.

In September 2015, Spirit delivered the first V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft fuselage to Bell Helicopter at a ceremony in Wichita. The V-280 is Bell’s answer to the Army’s next generation of airborne medium-class troop carriers.

The V-280 work is in addition to two other defense programs at Spirit already underway prior to Lawson’s arrival in April 2013. Those two programs are the manufacture of the 30-foot-long composite fuselage of the Sikorskys CH-53K heavy lift helicopter for the Marine Corps, and the manufacture of Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance jet, which is built from a Boeing 737 airframe.

Contributing: Associated Press

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark

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