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Boeing unveils lightweight bomb for urban combat
Company's defense unit will make 24,000 for Air Force

Associated Press | May 24, 2006

Boeing Co. on Monday unveiled a line of small, lightweight bombs that the U.S. Air Force will use in urban combat situations like the war in Iraq.

The small-diameter bombs weigh 250 pounds and can be used by all Air Force bombers, according to Boeing. By using the smaller bombs, planes can carry about four times as many bombs and fire them from farther away. A B-2 Stealth bomber can carry as many as 80 of the small-diameter bombs.

The bombs also will help limit civilian casualties during airstrikes in urban areas, Air Force Col. Richard Justice said at an unveiling ceremony. Boeing said its own tests show the bombs hit within 4 feet of their target.

Justice said Boeing's development of the bomb was one of the speediest and most successful weapons development in Air Force history. He said the bomb should be used in combat as early as this summer.

Boeing, based in Chicago but whose defense operations are based in the St. Louis area, said it will make 24,000 small-diameter bombs for the Air Force, which has contracted to buy them through 2015.

The small-diameter bomb contract is valued at about $2.5 billion, but Boeing has only won the first phase of the whole project.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office - the investigative arm of Congress - found that Boeing's contract for the bombs had been influenced by an Air Force official who was sentenced to nine months in prison for giving Boeing preferential treatment.

Boeing tried to recruit Darleen Druyun for a job while she still oversaw military contracts with the company. Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing's biggest competitor, complained that Druyun influenced the small-diameter bomb contact.

The GAO upheld that complaint and recommended the second phase of the contract should be opened up to bidding.

Winning the first phase of the contract has been good news for Boeing, which hasn't always benefited from changing war plans at the Pentagon. The company makes some military equipment that could get the ax as Pentagon planners shift priorities.

Boeing spokesman Steve Miller said the company might have to cut back production of its C-17 Globemaster III, a large transport plane. Miller said there is risk that Congress won't approve funding for more Globemasters in the 2007 budget.

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