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Air Force Brass: New Bomber to Exceed $550 Million Each

The price tag of the Air Force's new strategic bomber will likely exceed $550 million a unit, the service's military deputy for acquisition said on Wednesday.

"We get a lot of questions" on per-unit cost, Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Davis said at an aviation technologies conference. "Is it going to be $550 million a copy? No, of course it's not going to be $550 million a copy, once you add in everything," Defense News quoted him as saying.

The Air Force in 2010 projected it would cost $550 million to acquire each of the 80 to 100 long-range strike aircraft it intends to buy. Officials have said it would be important not to exceed that figure so that skyrocketing procurement expenditures of the past would not be repeated, the publication reported.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh in November said the service would do everything it could to cap the per-unit cost at that level and would limit what technologies were included in the heavy bomber in order to meet the goal.

Davis, however, indicated there was some wiggle room to that.

"What it will be is $550 million in design constraints," the three-star general said. "So if we're going to set design constraints ... that limits the technology you bring in, it limits certain parameters and certain capabilities. By definition we have used a cost-controlled approach to that airplane to be able to curb some of the appetite we have for very new capabilities."

The envisioned bomber would have the ability to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons. Few other details about its desired capabilities are known, though future versions of the aircraft could be designed to be remotely piloted. Some outside analysts have been dubious about the Air Force's stated intention to limit the aircraft's costs, citing the service's long track-record of going over budget on big procurement initiatives.

The Pentagon is requesting $914 million in fiscal 2015 funds to continue design work for the aircraft.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James late last month said she anticipates a request for proposal on the bomber to be issued this fall, Defense News reported separately.

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