After Bomber Award, Secrecy Continues

The Air Force announced Tuesday that Northrop Grumman won the Long-Range Strike Bomber contract, but released precious little new information and offered no details about the actual amount of the contract awarded, how close the contest was with the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team, what the Key Performance Parameters of the program were, or even a blurred artist’s concept of the new airplane. Service spokesmen said the amount of the contract is being withheld “to balance accountability to the taxpayer with our nation’s security,” saying that revealing the contract value “can provide a window” into development. Service acquisition chief William LaPlante would say only that Northrop Grumman offered the “best value” proposal. LaPlante and his military deputy, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, acknowledged that details they promised only a week ago would ?not be disclosed after all, offering no reason for the reversal of plan. What was revealed was the projected cost of development—which the Air Force pegs at $23.5 billion in fiscal year 2016 dollars—and that independent cost estimates actually put the per-unit price of the aircraft at $564 million each in Fiscal 2016 dollars for 100 airplanes. LaPlante said “we hope to beat” even that amount. This is some $42 million less than the budgeted price (and the Air Force’s own unit cost estimate) of $606 million (the same $550 million in base year 2010 dollars that the Air Force has stated all along). (Read the full cost comparison.)