AEROSPACE & DEFENSE

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Cost Estimate of Stealth Fleet Defended: Air Force Secretary Donald Rice sought to explain a $4-billion gap between Pentagon and congressional estimates of the cost of a scaled-down fleet of 20 radar-eluding B-2 Stealth bombers. "The numbers you have are consistent and complete," Rice told the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee in defending the military's figure of $44.4 billion. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy noted that the Congressional Budget Office has calculated the cost of the 20-plane program at $40.2 billion. The lawmaker questioned whether the higher Air Force price includes needed repairs in the B-2's Stealth capabilities. "No difference of $4 billion is associated with fixing the Stealth problems," said Rice, who estimated that the repair would cost a "few hundred million" dollars.

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