The U.S. Air Force is days away from issuing a final request for proposals for its next-generation bomber, says service procurement chief William LaPlante.

The program, shrouded in secrecy, aims to deliver 100 long-range, stealthy strike aircraft to augment the B-2 fleet.

Source selection is slated for early next year, he says.

The Air Force will continue to stick to the per-unit cost cap set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates of $550 million per unit without amortizing the cost of development. He said there is also a development cost goal, but declined to discuss it.

The Air Force plans to field a baseline system, which he describes as an "80% solution." It is engineered to include "hard points" and other on ramps for upgrades in the future, he says.

LaPlante echoed Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall’s assessment of the F-35’s software as largely on schedule for the 2B and 3i versions needed for U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force initial operational capability, respectively. The follow-on, dubbed 3F, is, however, potentially 5 months late to need in 2018 for the U.S. Navy’s initial operational capability.

First flight for the first green 767-2C is slated for summer, LaPlante says, followed early next year with the first flight of the first KC-46A. He says this roughly $5 billion program is largely on track.

The service is also proceeding with planning work for a replacement for the E8-C Joint Stars command and control aircraft and Minuteman III ICBM. Though not in the top three priorities for the service – the F-35, bomber and tanker – these are also of high importance, he says.