Cost Growth Likely in New Bomber Program

The Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber, one of the service’s recapitalization priorities, remains a low-profile program. LRS-B is supposed to be ready for operations by the mid 2020s, but much of its funding is beyond the Pentagon’s current five-year spending program, rising quickly after Fiscal 2018, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for the Teal Group of Fairfax, Va. He spoke on Oct. 24 at an event sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies in Arlington, Va. While LRS-B program details remain scant, Aboulafia said he is not convinced that the Air Force’s plans to field the fleet of new bombers—he cited a target of some 75 airframes; Air Force officials have said between 80 and 100 units—would hold over time. The Air Force wants to build LRS-B at a unit cost of about $550 million. “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Aboulafia. When factoring expenditures on items like development and requirements changes, it’s hard to see how the Air Force will not be forced to scale back the target buy, he said. Unless the target holds, unit costs in a smaller buy could come out to more than a billion dollars, said Aboulafia. (Aboulafia’s briefing charts)