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Awarding of Air Force Bomber Contract to Northrop Grumman Could Lead to Fight

Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman won a highly coveted contract Tuesday to build the U.S. Air Force's next generation of advanced stealth bombers — but the multibillion-dollar deal could lead to an unexpected dogfight.

Boeing's defense president said shortly after the announcement that his company, which teamed up with Lockheed Martin on a competing contract, plans to "rigorously deliberate whether to protest" the decision, Reuters reported.

Whether Boeing will formally protest could be decided in the next two weeks.

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"We are interested in knowing how the competition was scored in terms of price and risk, as we believe that the combination of Boeing and Lockheed Martin offers unparalleled experience, capability and resources for this critically important recapitalization program," the companies said in a joint statement.

Image: Deborah Lee James, Mark Welsh III
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, right, accompanied by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, left, speaks during the announcement news conference that Northrop Grumman is being awarded the US Air Force’s next-generation long range strike bomber contract at a news conference at the Pentagon on Oct. 27, 2015. Andrew Harnik / AP

The contract awarded to Northrop Grumman is for manufacturing 100 Long Range Strike Bombers over the next 10 years at an estimated cost of over $56 billion. Industry analysts, however, estimate the total cost could reach upwards of $77 billion over the length of the contract.

It's expected to be the single largest defense contract over the next decade, and it would be the first new U.S. bomber to be developed since the Cold War.

Northrop Grumman is also the manufacturer of the Air Force B-2 Stealth Bomber, which began production in the 1980s.