Much of the Air Force’s new long-range strike bomber program is shrouded in mystery. But that doesn’t mean the advertising about it has to be.
The above image was taken at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, during this week’s Air Force Association Air & Space Conference. Northrop Grumman locked down the single biggest physical piece of advertising with this massive banner. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it’s probably three or four stories tall and was essentially impossible to miss.
Yes, the headline is sarcastic.
As you can tell, it’s a non-subtle reminder that the last stealthy, long-range strike bomber system for the Air Force, the B-2, was developed by Northrop. I particularly like how much larger the words “LONG RANGE STRIKE” are than the rest of the ad.
Northrop had a similar, if less direct, piece of advertising in the same spot during last year’s conference, but the L-RSB competition was still in relative infancy at that point. Not so now. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have teamed up to develop the new system and make a direct run at Northrop, and the two companies are currently in the process of responding to an Air Force request for proposal.
Northrop, of course, would benefit greatly from winning the program. While Lockheed has the F-35 joint strike fighter and Boeing has the KC-46A tanker to fall back on, Northrop has limited opportunities for new Air Force systems ahead of it. Winning the bomber program — which service officials say will produce 80-100 systems at around $550m a pop — would be a huge get for the company.
Officials expect to award a contract in the first half of 2015. If Northrop wins, expect another giant ad to block out the sun for conference attendees next year.
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