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Defense Secretary Bob Gates wasn't exactly encouraging about a future bomber in Wednesday's address to the Air Force Association convention, held at a remote facility some distance south of Washington. "I'm committed to seeing that the USA has a credible long-range strike capability. But what we don't want to do is do what we did with our last bomber - it was so expensive, costing $2 billion each, that only one-sixth of the planned fleet was built."A groan went up from Northrop Grumman bomber people, who feel that the boss (like most media people) had it the wrong way round. The B-2s cost $2 billion each because production was cut off at 21 aircraft, leaving each jet carrying a massive share of non-recurring costs, which included the cost of setting up a production line for 132 aircraft. It has to be frustrating because all the pieces, programatically speaking, for a new global ISR and strike system are sitting around, waiting to be put together. A lot of funded B-2 improvements - a final solution for the difficult aft-deck structure, a fully flexible weapon bay, AESA radar and broadband, stealth-compatible satcoms - could be applied directly to a new ultra-stealthy bomber. Ares understands that Northrop Grumman's black-world bomber demonstrator is still alive despite Gates' lack of enthusiasm. But feeding the public belief that a bomber will cost $2 billion doesn't help.
ar99, afa09, gates, B-2
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