Northrop Grumman’s B-21

At a “state of the Air Force” press conference, Air Force secretary Deborah James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh listed seven companies that will build components for the new plane. They didn’t provide many details as to what those contributions will be, but a quick look at the history of the companies provides some indication of how this project will be built. It also shows the program is being designed to have broad political support by spreading the work across numerous states and congressional districts.

Veteran military reformer Franklin “Chuck” Spinney described political engineering as “business as usual” for programs of this kind. “By designing overly complex weapons, then spreading subcontracts, jobs, and profits all over the country, the political engineers in the Defense Department deliberately magnify the power of these forces to punish Congress, should it subsequently try to reduce defense spending by terminating major procurement programs.”

The companies made public so far are BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Janicki Industries, Orbital ATK, Rockwell Collins, Spirit AeroSystems and Pratt & Whitney.

BAE Systems’ plant in New Hampshire is the headquarters of the company’s electronic systems division. There it produces electronics for “flight and engine control, electronic warfare, surveillance, communications, geospatial intelligence and power and energy management.” Both U.S. senators for New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte — a Democrat and Republic, respectively — serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The U.S. Air Force’s B-21 Stealth Bomber Is About to Get Really Political