A B-2 Spirit bomber refuels over Indian Ocean.
A B-2 Spirit receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell AFB, Kansas, over the Indian Ocean, March 27, 2003. Reuters

The U.S. Air Force on Monday evening released a list of the main contractors for its recently unveiled Northrop Grumman Long Range Strike Bomber, also known as the B-21. Pratt & Whitney, the East Hartford, Connecticut-based manufacturer, will produce the engine, while another six major contractors will help contribute to the completion of the $80 billion contract.

The Air Force is keen to ensure a more transparent process in the building of the B-21, given that its predecessor, the B-2 bomber, was one of the most secretive military aircraft programs in recent decades.

“The B-2 remained in the shadows for too long. It remained classified — too many details remained classified too long,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing Monday. “In the case of the B-21, we are leaning forward, and we are trying to be more transparent, and we are going to continue to do so.”

The other major contractors will work on the high-tech airframe of the highly anticipated aircraft. These companies include BAE Systems, working out of Nashua, New Hampshire; GKN Aerospace in St. Louis; Janicki Industries in Sedro-Woolley, Washington; Orbital ATK in Clearfield, Utah and Dayton, Ohio; Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas.

Despite the contract being awarded to Northrop nearly five months ago, when it beat out competition from a joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin bid, the Air Force released very few details other than the main contract winner because of an appeal from Boeing and Lockheed. The defense giants asked the Government Accountability Office to reverse the contract, claiming that the West Falls Church, Virginia-based company had undervalued the true cost of building the bomber. However, last month the contract was finalized and the Air Force released a rough image of what Northrop’s B-21 will look like.