The leader of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office doubled down June 21 on the service’s refusal to release the overall contract value of the forthcoming B-21 stealth bomber program.
Amid questions of cost transparency, Randall Walden, the RCO’s director and program executive officer, said that releasing the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract award value for the long-range strike bomber would give foreign adversaries too much information.
The Air Force plans to purchase 100 aircraft at a cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or $606 million each in 2016 dollars. But Walden said that he believed “that we are going to be able to beat that 550” number based on an government independent cost estimate that showed the unit cost as closer to $511 million in 2010 dollars, or $564 million in 2016 dollars.
The Air Force anticipates fielding the B-21 at operational bases and to achieve initial operational capability by 2030, and to continue fielding the fleet and evolving the aircraft as new threats and technologies emerge through 2060, Walden said.
The independent cost estimate for the EMD phase is $23.5 billion, Walden said. But that number doesn’t reveal how the contract is allocated, and detractors fear that separate features such as nuclear weapons capability or unmanned flight could be packaged under separate and classified contracts, and cause the price per plane to balloon.
SOURCES – National Defense Magazine
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