The US Air Force just awarded a contract for its new bomber to Northrop Grumman. The price tag for what it calls the Long Range Strategic Bomber (LRS)? As Charles Tiefer writes at Forbes: “The contract is for $800 million per plane – or $80 billion for the whole fleet.” Northop had already designed and built the B-2 Stealth bomber. Another reason it got the contract, writes Alexander Cohen for the Center for Public Integrity:
Lobbyists and officials at Northrop Grumman have spent years greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill to ensure congressional support for the program and for the firm’s central role in it.
… Congress has given the program $2 billion so far, starting in fiscal 2011. That year, the House Armed Services Committee, then chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., even added $100 million more than the $197 million the Air Force requested for new bomber work for the 2012 fiscal year.
The company, through its political action committees and via its employees, contributed $4.6 million to the campaigns and leadership PACs of 224 lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees.
War planners still consider the bomber an indispensable part of the nuclear triad — land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), long-range bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) — as opposed to ICBMs, which are considered sitting targets.
But even if you believe in this sort of thing, the staggering cost, writes Tiefer, “commits the U.S. taxpayer to a trillion-dollar burden.” He explains:
Significantly, the Air Force describes the “Long Range Strategic Bomber” (LRS or LRS-B) as not just for nuclear warfare, but also for conventional missions. But look at the announcement and the prior information. This is a high-tech stealth bomber costing $800 million apiece. Would we have used this in Afghanistan? No. Would we have used this against the insurgency in Iraq? No. Would it be flying now against ISIS? No. It is too expensive: it is built for longer distance than necessary for these wars; and, it is stealthy and high tech, which are not needed for the kinds of wars we have been fighting. Let’s face it, we are buying the LRS-B just in contemplation of the Cold War, part II.
One wonders — facetiousness alert — if Russian President Putin gets a kick-back from Northrop Grumman for stoking American fear, thus softening us up for the budgetary kill?