The Air Force plans to buy 80-100 new long-range bombers at an average cost of $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars — probably closer to $700 million counting the cost of developing the plane. If this program follows the same trajectory as past Air Force efforts to buy new combat systems, critics will soon be complaining the bomber’s price-tag is too high. Before that reflex triggers, though, they ought to take a look at what widebody airliners are selling for these days. The Boeing 747 and newer 777X sell for $350-400 million. The Airbus A380 sells for over $400 million. All the airliners have to do is carry 400 or so passengers from Point A to Point B. The bomber has to safely penetrate hostile air space, track down mobile and/or time-sensitive targets, and then deliver tailored, precise effects that destroy the target without causing major collateral damage. When you look at it that way, $550 million or $700 million isn’t much for a new bomber — especially coming from a limited production run of only a hundred planes. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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