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Raytheon awarded $900M to develop new nuclear cruise missile

Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson will work on plans for a new nuclear cruise missile, competing with Lockheed Martin for a contract that could be worth $10 billion in the future. The development competition will pay each defense contractor about $900 million over 4.5 years.

The two companies will develop concepts for a new nuclear-tipped cruise missile to be launched from nuclear bombers, meant to replace the current AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missile, the Pentagon said.

Raytheon and Lockheed will "mature design concepts and prove developmental technologies for the new Long Range Standoff weapon," the Air Force said.

After the development stage, the Air Force plans to pick a single contractor to produce the weapons, with a price tag that could reach $10 billion or more.

The Pentagon has refused to release many details about the highly classified program, keeping even the precise amounts of the cost-plus contracts from the public.

From the Air Force:

The current Air Launched Cruise Missile was first fielded in the early 1980s with a 10-year design life, and Lockheed and Raytheon are charged with developing the technologies and demonstrating reliability and maintainability of a replacement weapon. The aging ALCM will continue to face increasingly significant operational challenges against emerging threats and reliability challenges until replaced. The Air Force plans to start fielding LRSO in the late 2020s.

The new cruise missile will "modernize the air-based leg of the nuclear triad," said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

The missile is meant to be deployed with the aging B-52, B-2 and in-development B-21 "Raider" Long-Range Strike Bomber, but has faced opposition in Congress. Some Democrats have argued that building new ships for the navy and increasing readiness are more important than crafting a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Developing a new arsenal of air, sea and land-based nuclear arms could cost upwards of $1 trillion.

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An AGM-86 cruise missile mounted on a B-52.