Keeping LRS-B in the Dark

The Air Force’s top acquisition official defended the secrecy surrounding the Long-Range Strike Bomber during a recent House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and power projection forces panel. Responding to a query from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) on both the classification level and technology maturation of the program, USAF’s acquisition head William LaPlante said he is convinced the secrecy that surrounds the program is critical to safeguarding key technology. USAF is going for a “Block A” approach, where 80 percent of the requirements in the aircraft are rolled out in the first version while maintaining the target $550 million baseline, he said in the April 2 hearing. This is why it is not front-loading requirements on early versions. “We’re holding firm to that,” LaPlante said. As time goes by USAF wants to “hook into either an open architecture with new sensors, hardened spots on the wings,” and other parts of the aircraft with more up-to-date developments. “We don’t know what technology is going to be there, but we have to build it [so we] … have the technology ramp… that can inject these technologies.” LaPlante noted one of the issues he has been examining is whether USAF has a “sufficient technology ramp” to feed next generation versions of the bomber. “In some areas we do, and some areas we don’t,” he said. “And we can’t talk about it more here.”