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Carter Meets with Industry on New Bomber: Pentagon weapons buyer Ash Carter traveled to southern California earlier this month to meet with industry officials to discuss the Air Force's future long-range strike aircraft. Carter met separately with executives from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, reported the Los Angeles Times Sunday. All three companies are expected to vie for the rights to supply the bomber platform, which the Air Force wants to start fielding in the mid 2020s. Each company may already be involved in maturing applicable technologies under classified projects. The Air Force seeks Congress' approval to formally start the bomber's development in Fiscal 2012. Service officials envision a fleet of 80 to 100 optionally manned platforms capable of penetrating heavily defended airspace and delivering conventional and nuclear munitions. They have requested $197 million for development next fiscal year and have programmed a total of $3.7 billion over the next five fiscal years. The House Armed Services Committee supported the Air Force's bomber plans in its version of the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, but added a provision requiring a competitive acquisition strategy for the bomber's propulsion.