Originally published at 2:22 p.m. EST, this article has been updated to include comment from the Air Force.
WASHINGTON and ORLANDO, Fla — Boeing and Lockheed will not pursue a lawsuit against the US Air Force over its decision to award its Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) contract to Northrop Grumman, the companies announced Friday.
That locks in Northrop as the winner of the bomber contract, 10 ten days after a government watchdog denied a contract protest from the Boeing-Lockheed team.
"While we remain firmly convinced of the validity of the issues raised in our protest to the Government Accountability Office of the Long Range Strike-Bomber contract award to Northrop Grumman, the Boeing - Lockheed Martin team has decided not to pursue further challenges to that award, either through the GAO or in federal court," a Boeing corporate statement read. "This decision was taken, as always, with the best interests of our customer and the warfighter in mind."
Hours before the Boeing announcement, Air Force Secretary of Defense Deborah Lee James officially designated the LRS-B program the B-21 bomber and unveiled an artists concept of the plane. The Air Force said in a statement it choose the B-21 designation as recognition that LRS-B is the first bomber of the 21st century.
Following the announcement, James told reporters she had received an "encouraging" phone call from Boeing's CEO earlier this week, and had "high hopes" that the Boeing-Lockheed team would decide not to pursue further action.
James emphasized the Air Force's "valuable" relationship with Boeing on other programs, and stressed the importance of moving forward with engineering and development work on the B-21.
"Boeing is a very valuable partner, we have a lot going on with boeing, and we need to get on with the bomber," she said.
Northrop and the Boeing-Lockheed team fought hard for the right to produce the bomber. The largest military aircraft contract since Lockheed won the F-35 joint strike fighter more than a decade ago, the B-21 is expected to top $55 billion over the life of the program.
Northrop was awarded the contract in October, with Boeing quickly filling a complaint with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) over the selection. The GAO ruled Feb. 16 that the contract was awarded properly. However, there had been questions about whether the Boeing-Lockheed team would seek other legal remedies to force the service to reopen the contract.
Today's announcement signals that the fight over the bomber, barring dramatic cCongressional action, is ended, with Northrop the winner.
Twitter: @AaronMehta | @LaraSeligman