B-21: How the “Raider” stealth bomber will change everything

The US Air Force wants a fleet of stealth bombers to ensure that if a war with Russia, China, Iran or even North Korea breaks out, America will have a major advantage. But it won’t be cheap. Here’s what a former member of the US Air Force told us about the B-21 Raider stealth bomber: The B-21 Raider is the future of the US Air Force’s strategic bombers. When that future will begin remains unclear. The Air Force recently announced that the B-21 will not make its maiden flight until 2023.

The Raider was originally supposed to fly in 2021. Then 2021 became 2022. And now we’re looking at 2023. Still, “the plane is reasonably on track and on budget – a modern miracle for programs expensive defense,” Kyle Mizokami wrote in popular mechanics.

The first strategic bomber in 30 years

The United States has not unveiled a strategic bomber for thirty years, not since the B-2 Spirit rolled off the Northrop Grumman production line in the late 1980s. The B-2, the world’s first ever stealth bomber, is a flying wing design developed with a total program cost of $2.3 billion by plane. Only 21 B-2s were made and all but one are still in service. One was lost in an accident when it ran off the track in Guam. The B-21, also a Northrop Grumman product and also a flying wing, is a descendant of the B-2.

Details about the B-21 remain elusive

Not much is known about the B-21; the program was shrouded in secrecy with only occasional information made public. “What we know for certain is that the aircraft was specifically designed to replace at least two-thirds of the aging US heavy bomber fleet,” said Alex Hollings. wrote for Sandboxx.

The current US Air Force bomber inventory includes the B-2 stealth bomber, the Eisenhower-era B-52, and the supersonic B-1. Once the B-21 enters service, the B-1 and B-2 will begin to be phased out. Against all odds, the 70-year-old B-52 will remain in service, because it does what it was designed to do efficiently and cheaply: drop lots of bombs.

“In order to be a viable replacement for both the ultra-fast B-1B and the ultra-stealthy B-2 Spirit, the B-21 Raider will need to be able to engage any target, at any time, no matter what. anywhere on the globe,” Hollings wrote.

Discreetly lead the way

To engage any target, anywhere in the world, the B-21 will rely, in part, on improved stealth technology. The specifics of the B-21’s stealth capabilities are unclear, but undoubtedly, as enemy air defense systems become increasingly sophisticated, American aerospace designers are constantly refining stealth technology. Each successive American stealth aircraft has had lower observability than its stealth predecessors, from the F-117 to the B-2, from the F-22 to the F-35. In all likelihood, once unveiled, the B-21 will have the most advanced stealth capabilities in the world.

Undoubtedly, the B-21 will be able to carry a large amount and variety of conventional and thermonuclear weapons. Roughly no information has been released on the payload capability of the B-21, but we can expect the Raider to be equipped to deploy the B-61 Variable Yield Nuclear Gravity Bomb and Long Range Standoff. (LRSO) nuclear cruise missile. But the B-21 will be too fundamental to Air Force fleet structures — and too expensive to produce — to be called a mere nuclear deterrent or nuclear deployment airframe. No, the B-21 will be able to deploy conventional weapons, so that the bomber can participate in more conventional combat operations, particularly in the Pacific.

“The B-21 will be a major asset in any conventional war with China, flying long distances and launching long-range cruise missiles against enemy targets. The range of the B-21 will allow it to hit China if necessary,” Mizokami wrote.

When the B-21 is ready for production, the Air Force hopes to purchase between 100 and 200 aircraft, likely making the Raider the centerpiece of America’s strategic bombing capabilities for decades to come.

Harrison Kass is the senior defense writer at 19FortyFive. A lawyer, pilot, guitarist and minor professional hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a trainee pilot, but was discharged for medical reasons. Harrison is a graduate of Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.

Valerie J. Wallis