This modest proposal for the B-2 was first published in New Destinies in 1989. At that time, the B-2 Bomber was the center of an intensive public review because of its breathtaking cost (Note: the B-2 Stealth Bomber should not be confused with the Stealth Fighter, which was tremendously successful during Desert Storm, and which costs between 1/5th and 1/10th as much). Even though the fate of the B-2 has now been nominally sealed (20 have been built, and there are arguments about building 20 more, but the original plan for 200 has been canceled), the general techniques proposed here have wide applicability to many government programs.
by Marc Stiegler
(Copyright July 1989)
In recent years there have been a number of scandals about the quality of the Test and Evaluation programs for military weapon systems. The impressive price tag on the Stealth bomber makes test and evaluation particularly important. The recent flying of this aircraft gives us a critical opportunity to reduce the cost of the project while at the same time ensuring the quality of the testing program. The answer is simple: conduct a B-2 Lottery.
The lottery follows a simple 2-part procedure:
1)Every night for a year, the Air Force must fly the B-2 at least half way across the United States. They must fly over a different part of the U.S. every time. The B-2 pilots are urged to use every evasion technique they have available to avoid detection.
2)Lottery ticket holders attempt to shoot the Stealth out of the sky. The first lottery ticket holder to knock down the Stealth receives an award equal to the cost of a production model Stealth bomber, i.e., the lottery pays off a single cash prize of $500 million. When the Stealth is downed, the bomber program is canceled; even a $500 million prize is a bargain basement price for this reduction in government spending.
Lottery tickets cost $100 apiece. Since every man, woman, and child in the U.S. has already paid $100 for the development of this aircraft, all U.S. citizens automatically qualify as lottery ticket holders.
In the spirit of glasnost, Soviet fighter pilots are encouraged to join--but they must buy their tickets with hard currency.
Elegance should qualify for a bonus. Cessna pilots can double their money by flying up next to the Stealth, tucking their wing under the Stealth's wing, and flipping it over into the ground. Since the Stealth will normally fly low and slow, this should work very nicely.
Farmers can also get style points by using vintage firearms from World War II or before. Once again, if the Stealth chooses to fly low, this should be a clean kill. A triple bonus is available for anyone shooting down the B-2 with a black powder musket.
Style points are deducted for using modern assault rifles. Assault rifles used strictly for sport (i.e., rifles which have never been fired at human beings) are exempt from this penalty.
Team play is encouraged. For example, suppose a suburban housewife hears a Stealthy sound flying overhead. She fires a roman candle that bursts and spews spray-can metallic-glitter paint in all directions. As the Stealth passes through the cloud of fine droplets, it receives a glittery new paint job. The nearest F-16 homes in on the now brilliantly illuminated target and blows it to ashes (yes, no restrictions on the Air Force playing the game: after all, who is better qualified to test it? Goodness, I hope they have a better chance of shooting it down than the housewife). The housewife and the F-16 pilot each receive half the total prize money. In this scenario, gun cameras on the F-16 will be critical. We expect many photo finishes, as dozens of roaming F-16s zoom in from hundreds of miles at Mach 2 to claim the first shot.
The best way to destroy the Stealth bomber, of course, is to drop a bomb on it while it sits on the ground, from another craft that is just as stealthy as the Stealth. Such a demonstration would show the military an alternative vehicle to act as a Stealth bomber, possibly at a significant savings. The first person to sneak past Air Force defenses with a package the size and weight of a 25 kiloton warhead (noticeably larger than the bomb dropped at Hiroshima, which is adequate for most purposes) receives, not merely the cost- based value of the B-2 airplane, but rather the cost-based value of the entire B-2 Research and Development program, minus the cost of the craft used to deliver the bomb. The Navy might be very interested in this prize--a carefully placed cruise missile could handle the job on the first night. And though the basic $500 million is a pittance, a complete B-2 R&D project represents real money.
Senior citizens with World War I biplanes also have excellent chances at the R&D award, since cloth and fabric aircraft have low radar cross sections. The Goodyear Blimp, with a suitable coat of paint, is another fine candidate. They'll have to hurry, though, to beat the fleets of plastic ultralights that would swarm over the landscape seeking prize money. Even after deducting the cost of his ultralight from the award, the proud adolescent pilot's remaining $23 billion should be enough to buy most of Massachusetts after the tax hikes there depress real estate prices. Once again, this is a cheap price to pay, since every man, woman, and child in the United States may have to pay another $200 to complete the program if we don't find an alternative.
Because nuclear devices are so small these days, certain delivery techniques must be barred to encourage reasonable play. Delivery of nuke by briefcase, for example, is disallowed. Similarly, if you deliver your bomb by Federal Express to a Stealth runway, the prize goes to Fed Ex, not the shipper. Estes hobbyist rockets, however, make legitimate vehicles.
Finally, business executives cannot use their Lear fan aircraft in the competition. Lear fanjets already must carry transponders, because their plastic fuselages reflect so little radar that air traffic controllers cannot track them reliably. So the Lear fanjet would make a fine alternative for the Stealth, except in one regard: the Lear fanjet flies far too fast to be like a B-2. It is also far too maneuverable. You could never flip a Lear into the ground with a Cessna.
Could the lottery become self-supporting? Certainly, the B-2 swatting game is fun for the whole family. Perhaps we should demand that future projects like the B-2 be funded by the lotteries themselves rather than by taxpayers. With a family of four, would you have bought $400 worth of B-2 lottery tickets if you had been given a choice? Especially since you can't even win the prize?
Anyone care to buy a ticket?