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Contract for new U.S. long-range bomber due soon: Air Force secretary

© Reuters. B-2 Stealth Bomber performs a flyover at the 126th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James on Monday said a contract for a new long-range bomber would be awarded soon, and the project would not be considered a "new start" program that could be halted if Congress fails to pass a budget for fiscal 2016.

Northrop Grumman Corp (NYSE:NOC), maker of the B-2 bomber, is competing against a team made up of Boeing (NYSE:BA) Co and Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE:LMT) for a deal that could be worth $50 billion to $80 billion to the winning bidder.

James said the bomber program would not be subject to a ban on new program starts that would...