WASHINGTON, March 11 The U.S. Air Force is
"holding tight" to a target of $550 million for each new
long-range bomber in a fleet of up to 100 aircraft, excluding
research and development costs, a top Air Force official said
"We're still using that as a pretty firm chalk line for
those companies that are bidding on it, and in determining which
requirements make it, and which ones don't," Air Force
Undersecretary Eric Fanning told reporters.
He said the cost per aircraft would be higher if research
and development costs and inflation were added in, and
acknowledged that there were "a number of people" who thought
the $550 million target price tag was too low to develop the
kind of requirements needed for a next-generation bomber.
Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp have
teamed up to compete against Northrop Grumman Corp to
develop a successor to Northrop's B-2 bomber in one of the
biggest new aircrat development programs being launched by the
U.S. military at a time when defense budgets are being cut.
The Air Force has said it plans to buy 80 to 100 new
bombers. It expects to formally kick off a competition later
this year that will map out specific quantities and
The project is one of the Air Force's top priorities, along
with the Lockheed F-35 fighter jet and the KC-46A refueling
plane being built by Boeing.
Fanning said the cost target for the bomber was helping to
ensure that the Air Force and the companies involved remained
disciplined about the sort of capabilities and equipment being
proposed for the new aircraft.
He said former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had
been passionate about limiting the cost of the new program, and
the Air Force was still "hewing pretty hard to that number."