New Bomber on Air Force Horizon

Despite ongoing budget issues, the US Air Force intends to develop and field a new bomber colloiqually known as the Long Range Strike Aircraft.

The Air Force has already set aside $292 million in research dollars for the bomber in their fiscal 2013 budget request. The service plans to spend $6.3 billion into the effort over the next five years. Once developed, the new bomber will replace B-1Bs and B-2s. The new plane will be designed to evade advanced aerial defense systems, employ stealth technologies and carry nuclear weapons.

The Air Force is reportedly targeting a cost of $550 million per aircraft, which AOL Defense notes is

a bargain compared to the $2.2 billion per-plane cost of the stealthy B-2, but it dwarfs the $228 million per plane cost of the B-1B…

While that may be true dollar-for-dollar, it ignores the fact the B-2 would have been cheaper per aircraft if the planned buy had been completed.  Had the 132 planned bombers not been cut to 20 (eventually, 21), the substantial sunk development and procurement costs would have been spread across 6 times as many aircraft.  While the program cut technically saved money off the total cost of the program, the net effect was to increase the price of each individual aircraft.

The F-22 suffered a similar fate, with program cuts “driving up” the cost of each aircraft as the program was cut from the original 650 airframes to 187.  In fact, it is likely virtually every aircraft acquisition program has gone through similar cuts, resulting in similar cost-per-aircraft increases, and future programs — including the F-35 and Long Range Strike Aircraft — likely will, as well.

One comment

  • The question is, do we really need another long-range bomber? Will it have to be carefully housed and stored like the maintenance intensive B2 – or will it be robust enough to last for decades like the B-52? We have to consider not only the capability of our new bombers, but also their durability.

    Same with the F-22 and F-35. For any practical purposes, they are worthless at this point. They are great for research and technology advancements, but they are a solution to a non-existant threat. We should absolutely keep on the cutting edge of development, but we should curtail our procurement in order to keep the funds for pushing that edge further and further. I’m all for newer, faster, more agile fighters, but we shouldn’t be using them to replace our current fleets of fully-capable aircraft until there is some foreseeable threat worth buying a bunch of advanced fighters for.