Boeing has reportedly pulled out of the US Air Force’s (USAF) Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) programme.

The company has expressed reservations over the manner that the procurement process is taking shape, stressing the lack of a level playing field.

This leaves Northrop Grumman as the only bidder for the deal, which is valued at around $85bn. The programme seeks to replace the USAF’s land-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). The ageing LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM first became operational in the mid-1960s.

Boeing’s decision comes just days after the USAF issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the weapon system’s EMD phase.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman were the two competitors considering the contract, which includes five production lot options to produce and deploy the weapon system.

The two companies are also contract awardees for the GBSD’s current Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase.

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Boeing Defense, Space and Security division spokesperson Todd Blecher was quoted by media sources as saying: “After numerous attempts to resolve concerns within the procurement process, Boeing has informed the airforce that it will not bid GBSD EMD under the current acquisition approach.

“We’ve evaluated these issues extensively, and determined that the current acquisition approach does not provide a level playing field for fair competition.”

In a letter to USAF acquisition executive Will Roper, which was obtained by DefenseNews, Boeing Defense CEO Leanne Caret said that the final RFP did not adequately address the company’s concerns. Boeing believes that its competitor Northrop Grumman might have a potential advantage in the procurement process due to its recent purchase of Orbital ATK.

The contract is expected to be awarded in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year 2020.