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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Kathy Warden, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, speaks at a party celebrating the company's award of the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program at Northrop Grumman in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah will be the home of the military's latest advanced strategic aircraft. Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Salt Lake operation has been tasked with developing the new Long-Range Strike Bomber for the U.S. Air Force.

The company made the formal announcement Thursday at its North Temple facility. The aircraft is designed to replace the Air Force’s aging fleets of current bombers, some of which date back 60 years.

Speaking at the announcement event, Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who served 14 years as a pilot in the Air Force flying both rescue helicopters and the B-1B bomber, said the new aircraft will help bolster the nation's defense against various adversaries, including China and Russia.

"The (old bombers) are good airplanes, but they're not capable of penetrating the defenses that we need now. Technology has increased and improved," said Stewart, who currently serves as a member of the House Intelligence Committee and House Appropriations Committee.

"There are antiaircraft systems that are far more powerful than they were just a few years ago. This aircraft is going to be essential in countering that. For our own security we really need this."

In the wake of some notorious past production problems concerning military aircraft, Stewart told the audience of Northrop Grumman employees and local civic leaders that making sure the new bomber is ready for flight on time and on budget is critical for national defense.

"This is so important that the pressure is going to be nearly continuous" for the company to meet its contract obligations, he said.

Because the contract is considered highly classified, few details were given about the aircraft, but it is expected to be ready for use in the next five to 10 years.

"As the company that developed and delivered the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, we look forward to providing the Air Force with a highly capable and affordable next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber," said Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president of Northrop Grumman following the October contract announcement. "Our team has the resources in place to execute this important program."

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman has approximately 550 employees in Salt Lake City and 1,100 employees throughout Utah. Workers in Salt Lake City manufacture and test a wide range of navigation and situational awareness products used in platforms from underwater to outer space, including submarines, land vehicles, rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft, as well as satellites.

“The LRS-B will provide our nation tremendous flexibility as a dual-capable bomber and the strategic agility to respond and adapt faster than our potential adversaries,” said Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh III.

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