B-2 Bomber:

Additional Costs to Correct Deficiencies and Make Improvements

NSIAD-98-152: Published: Jun 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1998.

Additional Materials:


Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the total acquisition costs of the B-2A bomber, focusing on: (1) deficiencies that must be corrected to achieve Air Force objectives for the B-2A; (2) additional costs to correct the deficiencies; and (3) the B-2A modification schedule.

GAO noted that: (1) the Air Force evaluated the B-2A capability to meet several broad objectives--strike rapidly, sustaining operations, deploy to forward locations, survive in hostile environments, and accurately deliver weapons; (2) the November 1997 operational test reports concluded that B-2As, in the block 30 configuration, are operationally effective, but with several important deficiencies that limit the aircraft's ability to fully meet those objectives as planned; (3) the test reports identify four deficiencies: (a) incomplete development of the automated ground mission planning system, which is needed to rapidly plan and carry out B-2A strike missions; (b) unsatisfactory performance of the defensive avionics system, which is used to provide enemy threat information to the crews and increase their survivability in certain situations; (c) inadequate reliability and maintainability of low observable materials and structures, reducing the ability to sustain the defined pace of operations while maintaining a high degree of survivability for conventional B-2A missions; and (d) lack of environmental shelters to maintain low observable materials and to protect the aircraft from certain weather conditions during deployment; (4) the fiscal year 1999 B-2A cost estimate identifies the cost to complete the B-2A program for the block 30 configuration at $44.3 billion then-year dollars; (5) included in this figure is funding to correct or improve some, but not all, of the deficiencies listed above; (6) for example, the estimate does not include the additional costs that would be incurred if defensive avionics were to be required to achieve the originally planned capability, which Department of Defense officials said is no longer required at this time; (7) however, it does include funding for software upgrades to improve the system performance, which meets current operational objectives; (8) further, it does not include the cost to improve low observable materials, which are needed to sustain the pace of B-2A operations, and to provide for a sufficient number of deployment shelters to accommodate repairs to B-2As; (9) the estimate also excludes costs to buy spare parts that are being identified to support the B-2A's nuclear mission; (10) modifications of B-2As to the block 30 configuration have not been accomplished on schedule; (11) four modified aircraft were delivered as of April 1998--three later than scheduled and one ahead of schedule; and (12) according to the Air Force, the contractor has had difficulty hiring enough personnel to achieve the schedule.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In March 1999, the Air Force issued a report to Congress defining improvements needed for long-range bombers and the estimated costs. That report satisfied the intent of this recommendation by providing comprehensive information about the needs for future modifications and improvements to B-2 aircraft.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to identify remaining efforts to achieve full operational capability, the costs to complete these efforts, and the fiscal year (FY) funding requirements not currently in the FY 1999 President's Budget for the B-2A program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation defined when the plan mentioned in the first recommendation in this report should be provided to the Congress. DOD submit its plans for the entire bomber force as part of the FY2000 budget request, which is consistent with the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should provide this information to Congress with the FY 2000 President's Budget in the form of a comprehensive plan to complete the B-2A program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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