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    Why the US Air Force Won't Say How Much the New B-21 Bomber Will Cost

    Northrup Grumman
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    102010

    After spending over $1 trillion on the beleaguered F-35 Joint Strike fighter, the US has been cagey about the cost of its B-21 bomber program, justifying the secrecy by claiming national security.

    Even after breaking the record for the most expensive weapon ever made, development of the F-35 has been riddled with problems. Software vulnerabilities, networking errors, and even concerns over combat capabilities have all plagued the fighter jet.

    Many experts, citing the F-35, have expressed concerns over the Pentagon’s budget for a new long-range bomber. While the contract has been awarded to defense firm Northrop Grumman, the US Air Force has remained hesitant to release price estimates.

    "Releasing that [data], releasing other things that may be more insightful to our adversaries, I don’t think helps the taxpayer and I don’t think it helps – certainly – the warfighter," said Randall Walker, program executive officer of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, according to Defense News.

    "All we’re doing is putting in that risk and we’re showing our hand of what we believe this nation and the states' workers can deliver this particular weapon system for."

    Walker made assurances that budgetary details will be eventually be made available, but added that "right now is probably not the time to do that."

    US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) reiterated Walker’s security argument.

    "It’s not secrecy, it’s classification to keep it from our enemies; I don’t want our enemies to reverse engineer," he told Defense News, adding, "you don’t want to give the stealth bomber technologies to the very people you’re trying to use it against."

    One of the chief advocates for revealing the bomber program’s cost estimates is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who has pointed out that the national security argument appears to be a smokescreen, given that details that have been previously revealed.

    "The Air Force has already told our enemies what each plane costs, what it looks like, and who is making its most important components," he said in a statement. "All of this would seem to be more useful information for a foreign intelligence agency than the overall contract value."

    In October 2015, the US Air Force indicated that it would need between 80 and 100 new bombers, at an estimated cost of roughly $564 million each.

    Experts have expressed strong doubts about this appraisal.

    "…Even if that were true, the price tag does not include the development costs, estimated to exceed $200 billion," former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb said. "After the spiraling cost estimates of the F-35, Congress should be skeptical of the Air Force’s estimate of the cost of the new bomber."

    "Until these questions are answered, Congress and the administration need to delay moving forward with the new bomber program."

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    Tags:
    long range strike bomber, B-21, F-35, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, US Air Force, Pentagon, Randall Walker, Bill Nelson, John McCain, United States
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