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​A B-2 flies above Whiteman AFB, Mo., April 8, 2014. Air Force photo by SrA. Bryan Crane.

The Air Force released its Long-Range Strike Bomber request for proposals to industry on Wednesday, officially putting the program in the competitive phase. USAF did not disclose when proposals are due, but Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a brief statement released Thursday that the RFP will lead to a competitive selection of the prime contractor in the spring 2015 timeframe. “The LRS-B is a top modernization priority for the Air Force,” said James. “It will be an adaptable and highly capable system based upon mature technology. We look forward to industry’s best efforts in supporting this critical national security capability.” A Congressional Research Service paper, released July 2, suggests the program may already be well along in development. “It is not yet clear whether the proposed Long-Range Strike Bomber ... is to be a single platform or a group of smaller systems working in concert,” CRS analyst Jeremiah Gertler wrote in the paper. Gertler suggests the RFP release may just be a formality, and that significant development has likely already occurred. Budget figures reveal LRS-B will grow from $258.7 million to over $3.4 billion by 2019. “This funding stream resembles a production program more than a typical development profile,” Gertler wrote. This would explain how USAF intends to get the LRS-B from RFP to initial operational capability in just 10 years.