The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This mysterious Super Bowl ad highlights a new bomber plane you’re not allowed to see

There were no cute puppies. No Kim Kardashian. No reunion of Katie and Bryant.

There was a dark hangar and one sleek plane flashing after another. And then Northrop Grumman, airing what is believed to be the first Super Bowl commercial by a defense contractor, showed a large sheet covering a plane that could belong to Batman.

But why would Northrop spend so much money to advertise a product it didn’t show? The answer: because it can’t.

The program is classified. Northrop could show you the design for its plane, but then it would have to kill you.

The mystery plane is a giant tease in the upcoming battle over one of the Air Force’s largest programs in years — the Long Range Strike-Bomber. In a Goliath versus Goliath battle, Northrop is facing off against a team from Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The prize is the contract to build the bomber in a program that could cost as much as $55 billion, if not more. The Air Force plans to award the contract to build 80 to 100 planes sometime later this year, marking a huge coup for the victor.

Because of the super secretive nature of the program, the Pentagon and the companies involved have said little about it — hence the cloak over Northrop’s design. That might have been confusing for the average viewer. Then again, that’s not for whom the ad was intended.

It was aimed at the Pentagon officials who will choose the winner and members of Congress who will fund the project. They’ll decide whether we get to see the plane under the sheet or not.