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$450 million contract is the bomb for Raytheon

The Air Force has selected Tucson's Raytheon Missile Systems to build the next-generation small guided bomb - a $450 million initial contract.

The Air Force announced the selection Monday of Raytheon's design for the GBU-53/B for the Small Diameter Bomb II program. The company beat out a team of Boeing - the lead contractor on the first version of the bomb - and Lockheed Martin.

For once, cheers were the order of the day at the defense contractor's Tucson facility. Raytheon chose Huntsville, Ala., for a new missile plant last month. The company laid off 225 employees here this spring after three major programs were cut.

Raytheon officials said Monday they could not comment on whether the bomb program would mean added jobs at the Tucson plant. 

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Tuesday that a company official said the contract is expected to mean 300 additional jobs in Tucson. The company employs about 12,000 here.

Although the initial contract is worth $450 million, the program could run into the billions in the long term.

"Raytheon proved we can provide the warfighter a low-risk, affordable solution that meets their needs," said Raytheon Missile Systems President Taylor Lawrence said in a press release.

The GBU-53/B is an air-launched, precision-strike standoff weapon that will enable the Air Force's new F-35 stealth fighter to strike moving and fixed targets in adverse weather conditions. The bomb fits into the aircraft's internal weapons bays, to preserve its stealth capabilities.

The bomb will also be used on the F-15, the Defense Department said. The Small Diameter Bomb is a joint Air Force/Navy program.

The GBU-53/B uses millimeter-wave radar, uncooled imaging infrared and semiactive laser to seek out its targets.

"Raytheon's innovative use of an uncooled IIR seeker met all the warfighter's requirements and reduced the weapon's total life-cycle cost and logistics footprint," said Lawrence.

Raytheon expects to begin delivering the bombs in 2013.

Boeing began production of the first generation Small Diameter Bomb in 2006, when it was first used in combat.

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The GBU-53/B.