B-2 BomberStatus of Cost, Development, and Production Gao ID: NSIAD-95-164 August 4, 1995
After 14 years of development and evolving mission requirements, including six years of flight testing, the Air Force has yet to demonstrate that the B-2 design will meet some of its most important mission requirements. GAO found that many important testing milestones have yet to be reached. For example, the flight test program is only half complete and changes needed to deliver 20 fully operational B-2s did not begin until July 1995. The flight tests and the modifications are scheduled concurrently, and significant and potentially costly deficiencies could be detected before the testing is completed. The test program is scheduled for completion by July 1997, but GAO believes that this deadline is overly optimistic. GAO estimates that the Air Force might need another 55 aircraft test months to complete the test program objectives as currently planned. The flight test program depends on timely delivery of effective integration software to enable the various B-2 subsystems to work effectively and enable the crew to carry out their missions successfully. In the past, B-2 integration software was delivered late, without all the planned capabilities, and with deficiencies that delayed the completion of flight testing. Software has been a source of development problems on other aircraft, such as the B-1 and C-17. After nine years of building the B-2 bomber, Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor, continues to experience difficulties in delivering B-2s that can meet the Air Force's requirements. For the most part, aircraft have been delivered late and with significant deviations and waivers.
GAO found that: (1) a recent Air Force cost estimate indicates the final cost for 20 operational aircraft will be about $28,820 million in fiscal year (FY) 1981 constant dollars, or 99.5 percent of the legislated amount, in then-year dollars, the current estimated cost totals $44,389 million (91 percent of this amount has been appropriated through FY 1995); (2) although ground and flight tests have demonstrated the structural integrity, flying qualities, and aerodynamic performance of the B-2's flying wing design, GAO's review of the program's progress indicates that there are many important events yet to be completed; (3) many risks can impact the ultimate cost and completion of the 20 operational B-2 aircraft; the flight test program is only about half complete and modification efforts are scheduled concurrently; and deficiencies that are operationally important or costly to correct could be identified before the test program is completed; (4) after 14 years of development and evolving mission requirements, including 6 years of flight testing, the Air Force has yet to demonstrate that the B-2 design will meet some of its most important mission requirements; (5) test progress has been slower than planned, the test program is planned for completion in July 1997, GAO's analysis of the tests to be completed and the time that may be needed to complete them indicates that completion by July 1997 is optimistic; (6) the Department of Defense (DOD) believes that the test program will be completed by July 1997 as currently planned; (7) to provide additional test time, the Air Force is considering extending the time that test aircraft will remain in the active flight test program and is exploring ways to consolidate flight tests or reduce them to ensure flight test objectives will be completed by the planned date; (8) the flight test program depends on timely delivery of software to bring together the functions of the various B-2 subsystems so that the aircraft and crew can perform the planned military functions, but in the past B-2 integration software was delivered late, without all the planned capabilities, and with deficiencies significantly affecting the Air Force's ability to complete flight testing on schedule; (9) the Tri-Service Standoff Missile was cancelled; integration costs for a replacement may be funded separately and may not be counted as part of the B-2 cost limitation; (10) after 9 years of producing and assembling aircraft, the prime contractor continues to experience difficulties in delivering B-2s that can meet Air Force operational requirements; and (11) in February 1995 DOD concluded a lengthy effort to define a depot support plan which includes a mix of contractor and organic support for defined functions and components.