Defense Acquisitions:

Achieving B-2A Bomber Operational Requirements

NSIAD-99-97: Published: Jun 10, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the total acquisition costs of the Air Force's B-2A bomber program through completion of the production program, focusing on the: (1) deficiencies in achieving B-2A operational requirements; and (2) status of acquisition costs.

GAO noted that: (1) operational testing indicated that the B-2A met most operational requirements, but four significant deficiencies were identified that will limit or, under some circumstances, slow its pace in flight operations; (2) these deficiencies include: (a) incomplete development of the ground mission planning system; (b) limited situational awareness for the crew because defensive avionics do not provide the planned capability; (c) insufficient reliability and maintainability of low observable materials and features; and (d) inability to effectively operate B-2As from operational sites other than the main operating base in Missouri; (3) a March 1999 Air Force assessment of progress on correcting the deficiencies confirmed that three of the four had not been remedied, but that one--development of the ground mission planning system--was nearly corrected; (4) although the Air Force is taking steps to improve B-2A operational capabilities, it does not expect to incorporate all improvements before the next planned operational milestone, known as Full Operating Capability, which is scheduled to occur by June 30, 1999; (5) Congress has appropriated 98 percent of the funds that in March 1999 the Air Force estimated it would need for the acquisition of 21 block 30 B-2As and certain future improvements; (6) this program cost estimate is $44.5 billion and, according to Air Force officials, includes costs to complete development, production, modification, correction of the major deficiencies, and certain improvements to the block 30 configuration; (7) Air Force officials told GAO, however, that funding requirements for future years and the total acquisition cost for the program may increase; (8) they indicated that certain assumptions used to calculate the March 1999 estimate may no longer be valid; and (9) these assumptions include the cost to install certain improvements to low observable features, the period of time the contractor is expected to support the aircraft, and the cost of acquiring shelters for B-2A maintenance.

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