Raider Up and Running

The B-21 program has been “up and running” since February, when Boeing’s protest of the award to Northrop Grumman was resolved, Randall Warren, head of USAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, said in a panel discussion about the bomber at ASC16. Warren, whose RCO is running the B-21 program, said that there’s been good progress “getting folks on the job … cleared and working” on the bomber. Warren said he’s optimistic the B-21 will be an acquisition rarity in delivering on-time and below budget because “we started with a good baseline, with achievable requirements,” four years of risk-reduction work and a cost-plus contract that “incentivizes” Northrop Grumman to hit its marks or risk losing some or all of its award fees. The first five lots will produce 21 aircraft and Warren predicted “we will beat the $550 million” projected unit cost. He doesn’t expect the program will transition to Air Force Materiel Command, because of the “streamlined acquisition” approach of the project and the fact that it has proper “insight and oversight” from USAF leaders and members of Congress. Keeping Capitol Hill in the loop will have to do for “transparency” at this point, because Warren said the B-21’s technologies must be protected for now. The RCO approach, however, should save “50-80 percent” in some components because of the open missions systems/open architecture approach.