The U.S. Air Force has been supporting development of the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) with risk-reduction contracts in five key areas, the service’s former senior acquisition officer said at the Air Force Association show here Tuesday. Like other details of the program, the contracts have not been disclosed publicly.

According to Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, who retired in late 2011 as the Air Force’s military deputy in the office of the assistant USAF secretary for acquisition, the contracts were issued to protect the LRS-B program’s schedule following the cancellation of its predecessor, the Next Generation Bomber, in 2009, and to help industry keep bomber teams together. The areas on which the contracts focused are considered to be crucial technologies for the LRS-B, and are areas where competitors will be able to score points by exceeding threshold requirements.

One government source suggests to Aviation Week that the “risk reduction” contracts may in some cases be quite large. “The risk being hedged against is the risk of not being able to deliver an aircraft in 2025,” he says. “Unless you’re close to flying something now, you’re not going to do that.” Aviation Week reported last December that Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works was building a demonstrator prototype for the new bomber.

LRS-B will not be a fixed-price development program like the USAF’s KC-46A tanker, Shackelford says, but neither will it be a classic cost-plus effort.

“There will be cost-reimbursable line items, limited to areas where the government sees risk,” he says, “but there will be a point where the government stops paying fees” and incentives will be tied to tangible performance rather than milestones.