Lockheed Martin and Boeing are competing to build the production version of the Small Diameter Bomb: The Air Force will pick a winner at the end of 2003. The first plane to carry it will be the F-15E fighter, and the second will be the F-22.
Will the FB-22 be one of the next planes to be equipped with this new small bomb? Lockheed Martin certainly hopes so. The company will be building F-22s for the Air Force until 2013; the most practical approach to the FB-22 would be to have it follow directly afterward on the production line. For that to happen, though, the Air Force will have to request the necessary funds in the annual defense budget, and Congress will have to approve. The price tag for developing the FB-22 would depend on how extensive the modifications are, but would probably run in the low-single-digit billions-much less than it would cost to create an all-new airplane and engine; each plane would probably cost something more than $100 million to build.
The Pentagon has yet to formally evaluate the FB-22 proposal, but U.S. Air Force Secretary Roche has said the agency needs a new, fast, long-range plane, and he has indicated that the FB-22 is a contender. In April, Roche told Defense Daily, an in-the-know Washington, D.C., newsletter, that the work being done to perfect the F-22 is doubly useful because it's moving the proposed bomber adaptation forward as well.
"The more you improve the F-22," Roche concluded, "the more you have in the FB-22."