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Pentagon Seeks Balance on Releasing Details of $550M B-21 Long Range Bomber

© REUTERS / U.S. Air ForceAn artist rendering shows the first image of a new Northrop Grumman Corp long-range bomber B21 in this image released on February 26, 2016
An artist rendering shows the first image of a new Northrop Grumman Corp long-range bomber B21 in this image released on February 26, 2016 - Sputnik International
When the Pentagon developed the B-2 stealth bomber, senior officials said that the armed forces had not been “open enough,” but never revealed what lessons they learned from their mistake. For the Pentagon’s next big budget item, the B-21, officials hope to avoid making the same error.

"We have to do better, but we can’t go too far," Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch said Thursday at a conference outside Washington DC. 

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Bunch did not mention what material efficiencies were lost by keeping the B-21 stealth bomber secretive to foreign intelligence agencies, but he did say that for this project the service will remain "tight-lipped" about the program —  just maybe not as much, Defense Tech reported. 

"One of the things we did find out on the B-2 was we weren’t open enough," Bunch noted. Nevertheless, "with where we’re at today, I don’t see releasing anymore details for a period of time," the lieutenant general said. 

Issues previously arose regarding the secrecy, or lack thereof, with the stealth bomber program the Pentagon hopes will enter service by the mid-2020s. The size of the total contract awarded to defense contractor Northrop Grumman has also com under scrutiny for the Pentagon’s eagerness to maintain a hush-hush attitude. 

"The Air Force has already told our enemies what each plane costs, what it looks like and who is making its most important components," Senator John McCain wrote in a War is Boring open letter. This "would seems to be more useful" for foreign intelligence agencies "than the overall contract value," McCain said. 

"I hate the stuff that shows up in the press," Gen. John Hyten of US Strategic command said of the information published detailing the enormous cost estimates of the program. "If you put a cost estimate out in the press, it’s not only our adversaries that are looking at it, but the people that are going to build the system are looking at that."

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The Congressional Research Service has indicated that the "average procurement unit cost" has been estimated at $550 million per bomber in fiscal year 2020 dollars. The winning bid for the plan ended up at an "equivalent of $564 million in FY2016 dollars."

According to a Defense Tech report, Northrop Grumman beat out Boeing to secure a contract worth $21 billion, but that the figure could easily double. Pentagon officials have promised a "critical design review" of the Air Force program but have yet to share when the review would take place or how long it would take to complete, Defense Tech noted. 

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