The U.S. Air Force is to buy the first 40 B-21 Raider stealth bombers–out of a planned service buy of at least 100–through “fixed price options,” Defense Secretary William LaPlante said last week.

The bomber “entered limited rate production” last November and “remains on track to meet its key performance parameter for Average Procurement Unit Cost (APUC) of $550 million in Base Year 2010 dollars,” according to LaPlante’s prepared testimony to a May 15 hearing of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s defense panel.

That $550 million is $792 million in fiscal 2024 dollars.

The B-21 program “has negotiated fixed price production options for the first 40 aircraft,” LaPlante said in that testimony.

On April 25, DoD implemented a final rule that limits fixed-price, low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts involving development and production to one lot on major defense acquisition programs (Defense Daily, May 20). The enactment of the rule was to comply with Section 808 of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

For systems other than Navy ships and military satellites, Section 4231 of Title 10 provides that DoD limit LRIP to 10 percent of total production unless the defense secretary justifies an increase beyond that threshold.

In January, Northrop Grumman reported a $1.2 billion after-tax charge due to “macroeconomic” factors on the initial five, fixed-price LRIP lots for the B-21 Raider stealth bomber (Defense Daily, Jan. 25). The company said that the macroeconomic problems included inflation, supply chain and labor constraints and that the company will lose money on the five lot work through 2030.

DoD and the Air Force have cited classification in not saying how many B-21s are in the five LRIP lots, but the

Congressional Research Service said in a 2021 report that “plans call for initial acquisition of B-21s to take place in five low-rate production lots totaling 21 aircraft.”

Those 21 exceed 10 percent of the Air Force’s planned buy of 100 B-21s, and, the 40, if in LRIP, would exceed the threshold by 30 percent.

Defense Daily has asked DoD whether the B-21 received a waiver from the 10 percent LRIP threshold.

The future years defense plan through fiscal 2027 “doesn’t support buying 40, but more aircraft could be added in FY26-FY27,” Roman Schweizer, a defense analyst at TD Cowen Washington Research Group, wrote in a May 22nd report. “Fewer aircraft under LRIP might be better for Northrop.”