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B-2 Builder Says Proposed Production Cut Will Hurt Subcontractors First

April 27, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ From suppliers to the aerospace giant Northrop, the defense industry will feel the pinch of the Pentagon’s plan to slash production of the B-2 stealth bomber nearly in half.

″It would mean that we would not recognize the buildup and growth we had anticipated when we set out to do this,″ John Kvasnosky, spokesman for Boeing Military Airplanes, said Thursday.

He spoke after Defense Secretary Dick Cheney outlined to Congress proposed cuts aimed at saving $34.8 billion through 1997. The savings would be achieved partly by purchasing 75 B-2 stealth bombers instead of 132 and delaying the start of production of Advanced Tactical Fighters.

With 10,000 people working on the B-2 project in the Seattle area, the Boeing Co. is one of the largest contractors for the stealth, built by Los Angeles-based Northrop.

Northrop employs 12,000 people on the B-2 project, including about 1,700 who work on assembling the radar-evading bomber in Palmdale, Calif.

Stealth bomber subcontractors and suppliers across the nation employ 30,000 to 40,000 workers, said Tony Cantafio, a Northrop spokesman.

Production of five B-2s was proposed in the fiscal 1991 budget at a cost of $5.5 billion. Under the new plan only two jets would be built that year.

″The immediate effect may be felt by suppliers and subcontractors around the country,″ said Cantafio.

″From an employment standpoint at Northrop, there won’t be an immediate effect.″

Northrop still will need to hire several hundred more workers for the Palmdale plant because of prior orders, Cantafio said. However, Cheney’s proposal would halve production in peak years to 12 from 24 aircraft.

″Obviously, in the long run we won’t build up our employment to the original schedule,″ Cantafio said.

Just last Sunday the company ran full-page newspaper advertisements for a B-2 job fair, using a photograph of the ominous-looking flying wing and an appeal to many types of aerospace workers to help ″make history.″

Northrop has also been running television ads focusing on employees talking about their work and featuring famed test pilot Chuck Yeager.

Building fewer stealth bombers would reduce the program’s projected cost from $75.4 billion to $61.1 billion but would raise the cost of individual planes to more than $800 million, according to Cheney.

Northrop also is competing for a role in a new generation aircraft known as the Advanced Tactical Fighter, which will replace the Air Force’s F-15.

Cheney still wants 750 planes built but would push back purchases two years, from 1994 to 1996.

The Northrop spokesman characterized the impact of that change as minimal because the aircraft is not yet in full-scale development.

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