Via: Los Angeles Times:
Deep in the Mojave Desert, surrounded by tiers of barbed-wire fence, the nation’s largest defense contractors work in secrecy designing and building the latest military aircraft at Air Force Plant 42.
The military’s top weapons buyer quietly visited the Palmdale facility this month to talk with leading aerospace executives about plans to build a fleet of radar-evading bombers that the military hopes to have ready for action by the mid-2020s.
The plane would be the first long-range bomber built in the U.S. since the last of the 21 bat-winged B-2 stealth bombers by Northrop Grumman Corp. rolled off the assembly lines at Plant 42 more than a decade ago. The Air Force owns the 5,800-acre industrial park and leases space to aerospace contractors.
Now on the Pentagon wish list is a proposed fleet of 80 to 100 nuclear-capable bombers that could operate with or without a pilot in the cockpit.
Pentagon weapons acquisition chief Ashton Carter met separately with representatives of Northrop, Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin said. These companies are expected to vie for the estimated $55-billion contract that is expected to provide jobs and decades of work for Southern California’s aerospace industry.