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Northrop Grumman Corp., which is planning a major expansion in Melbourne, reiterated its commitment to Brevard County and the Sunshine State on Tuesday, following media reports out of California about the heated competition over a $55-billion contract for a fleet of next-generation stealth bombers.

It's widely believed that Northrop Grumman is bidding on the contract, while The Boeing Co. is teaming up with Lockheed Martin.

That competition involves Melbourne as Northrop Grumman looks to expand its operation at Melbourne International Airport. Depending on business conditions - i.e contracts - in the years ahead, Northrop Grumman wants to hit the next phase of its local expansion plan, which could mean 1,500 local jobs on top of 300 already coming.

A July 2 Los Angeles Times article examined pending legislation in the California Legislature that calls for a $420 million tax credit over 15 years for a subcontracting company with the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team to build at least 35 percent of "a new advanced strategic aircraft for the United States Air Force" which is clearly read by some to be the Stealth bombers.

The article mentions how that could give an advantage to Boeing/Lockheed Martin because the California legislation applies to subcontractors, not prime contractors like Northrop Grumman.

Some of the expansion by Northrop Grumman in Melbourne is believed to be tied to that contract, though the company has never stated that officially. What the company did say is that it hopes to achieve the 1,500 job growth through a variety of military contracts involving engineering and design work.

While the project could mean 1,500 manufacturing jobs in California, those wouldn't be the same 1,500 jobs for Melbourne.

Tim Paynter, a Northrop Grumman spokesperson, wouldn't specifically address the $55-billion contract, only that the company still has big plans for Florida and Melbourne.

"Northrop Grumman remains fully committed to the state of Florida, as we continue to grow our operations here," " The pending California legislation has no impact to the company's commitment to and growth in Florida. The establishment of our Centers of Excellence in both Florida and California are evidence of our longstanding commitment to both states."

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