NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.–The Air Force is considering declassifying further parts of the B-21 Raider program, but a key service official warned that the program would not be entirely declassified.
Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) Director and Program Executive Officer (PEO) Randall Walden said Monday the service is working with the intelligence community (IC) to ensure which information, and the timing of its potential release, makes sense. He didn’t say which aspects of the program the Air Force was considering declassifying. The Air Force was unable to respond to a request for comment by press time Monday.
The Air Force has declassified a number of B-21 program aspects, including the full independent cost estimate associated with the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) portion and the average procurement unit cost for each of the platforms, according to Walden. Though this news would be certainly be welcome to B-21 declassification advocates like Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), Walden warned that much of the program would remain classified largely because of the 30 years of science and technology (S&T) and research and development (R&D) investments made into B-21 technologies.
Some declassification advocates want transparency to ensure the Air Force keeps costs in line. Others want declassification to ensure the program gets enough funding to reach production as it will compete with major programs like the F-35 and new ICBM for scarce Air Force dollars (Defense Daily, November 10).
Walden said B-21 development is progressing. He said the Air Force is baselining the program with the help of prime contractor Northrop Grumman [NOC] and that this has gone very well. Walden looks forward to getting through upcoming design reviews in the near future.
Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) chief Gen. Robin Rand says he wants a minimum of 100 B-21s. He said 100 is the right number to start with as the service currently has 158 total bombers today in a mix of B-52s, B-2s and B-1s and that he can’t see the United States having one less bomber than it has today. The 100 minimum figure is the high end of a range of 80-100 B-21s that former Air Force chief of staff, retired Gen. Mark Welsh, would cite as the number of aircraft the service would procure.
Walden and Rand’s remarks came here at the Air Force Association’s (AFA) annual conference.