US Air Force Secretary Deborah James, unveiling the first image of a new Northrop Grumman Corp long-range bomber on Friday, said it would be designated the B-21.James revealed the first artist’s rendering of the secret bomber, an angular flying wing, at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium. She said the name of the new warplane would be chosen with the help of service members.The program has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception for fear of revealing military secrets to potential enemies, and to avoid giving the losing bidders any details before their formal protest was rejected last week.Northrop won a contract worth an estimated $80 billion in October to develop and build 100 new bombers, but work on the new plane was delayed for months while federal auditors reviewed a protest by Boeing Co and its key supplier, Lockheed Martin Corp.Boeing has now told senior US Air Force leaders that it will not take further legal action challenging the contract, Reuters reported Thursday, citing two sources familiar with the decision.The Air Force, under pressure from lawmakers and retired Air Force officers, has promised to release more information about the new plane in March.
Although the program has now survived the legal protest process, it still faces hurdles in Congress.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Thursday said he would block the Air Force’s use of a cost-plus type of contract for the long-range bomber since it holds the government responsible for cost overruns.
The Air Force says that only the engineering and development phase of the program, valued at $21.4 billion, is structured as a cost-plus contract with incentive fees.
Production of the first five sets of new bombers, usually the most expensive planes in a new class of aircraft, would be structured with a firm, fixed price, the service said.
Analysts say the program will be worth around $80 billion in total, providing a boon toNorthropand its key suppliers, but the Air Force has said only that it expects to pay $511 million per plane in 2010 dollars.
John Michael Loh, a retired four-star US Air Force general, has urged the Air Force to name Northrop’s suppliers to shore up support in Congress, and avoid a re-run of the B-2 bomber program, which was scaled back from 132 planes to just 21, which drove the price of each plane sharply higher.
Trackback from your site.