La maintenance du revêtement destiné à la furtivité du B-2 est particulièrement coûteuse
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Program costs and procurement
A procurement of 132 aircraft was planned in the mid-1980s, but was later reduced to 75. By the early 1990s, the Soviet Union dissolved, effectively eliminating the Spirit’s primary Cold War mission. Under budgetary pressures and Congressional opposition, in his 1992 State of the Union Address, President George H.W. Bush announced B-2 production would be limited to 20 aircraft. In 1996, however, the Clinton administration, though originally committed to ending production of the bombers at 20 aircraft, authorized the conversion of a 21st bomber, a prototype test model, to Block 30 fully operational status at a cost of nearly $500 million.
In 1995, Northrop made a proposal to the USAF to build 20 additional aircraft with a flyaway cost of $566 million each.
The program was the subject of public controversy for its cost to American taxpayers. In 1996, the General Accounting Office (GAO) disclosed that the USAF’s B-2 bombers “will be, by far, the most costly bombers to operate on a per aircraft basis”, costing over three times as much as the B-1B (US$9.6 million annually) and over four times as much as the B-52H ($US6.8 million annually). In September 1997, each hour of B-2 flight necessitated 119 hours of maintenance in turn. Comparable maintenance needs for the B-52 and the B-1B are 53 and 60 hours respectively for each hour of flight. A key reason for this cost is the provision of air-conditioned hangars large enough for the bomber’s 172 ft (52.4 m) wingspan, which are needed to maintain the aircraft’s stealthy properties, particularly its “low-observable” stealthy skins. Maintenance costs are about $3.4 million a month for each aircraft.
The total “military construction” cost related to the program was projected to be US$553.6 million in 1997 dollars. The cost to procure each B-2 was US$737 million in 1997 dollars, based only on a fleet cost of US$15.48 billion. The procurement cost per aircraft as detailed in GAO reports, which include spare parts and software support, was $929 million per aircraft in 1997 dollars.
The total program cost projected through 2004 was US$44.75 billion in 1997 dollars. This includes development, procurement, facilities, construction, and spare parts. The total program cost averaged US$2.13 billion per aircraft. The B-2 may cost up to $135,000 per flight hour to operate in 2010, which is about twice that of the B-52 and B-1.
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