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B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber Update: 5 Planes in Final Production

B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber
B-21 Raider. Image: Creative Commons.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced this week that five of the test B-21 Raiders have entered final production at manufacturer Northrop Grumman’s plant in Palmdale, California.

Before the announcement, it was initially believed that only two of the aircraft—which are designed to replace the aging fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers—were this far in the production process.

“When it comes to delivering America’s resolve, the B-21 Raider will be standing by, silent and ready. We are providing America’s warfighters with an advanced aircraft offering a combination of range, payload, and survivability. The B-21 Raider will be capable of penetrating the toughest defenses to deliver precision strikes anywhere in the world. The B-21 is the future of deterrence,” Northrop Grumman says on its website.

‘The Backbone’

In his keynote speech at the Air Force Association’s Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Kendall said that the B-21 Raider will become “the backbone of the Air Force bomber fleet.”

“The program is making good progress to field real capability. This investment in meaningful military capabilities that project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world addresses my number one priority,” he continued.

According to the National Defense, “modernizing the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet with production of the B-21 has been one of the service’s top priorities. The Pentagon has previously been highly secretive about the Raider’s development.”

It continued: “It hopes to eventually obtain at least one hundred of the bombers and have some enter service by the mid-2020s, according to a July Congressional Research Service report. The Biden administration’s funding request for further development of the program in the fiscal year 2022 budget was $2.98 billion, up from the previous year’s approved $2.84 billion.”

Focus on Modernization

Since taking office in this past summer, Kendall has been adamant that his chief priority would be to vastly improve the capabilities of the Air and Space Forces. Without modernized capabilities, Kendall claimed that other service’s missions would become “inexecutable.”

“If our one-team … is going to win the one fight to keep our freedom, it will be because of the success of our Air and Space Forces,” he added.

Kendall later made an effort to single out the Advanced Battle Management System, or ABMS, as being highly inefficient. ABMS is known to be the U.S. Air Force’s latest effort to fully modernize its command-and-control system.

“My early observation is that this program has not been adequately focused on achieving and fielding specific, measurable improvements in operational outcomes,” he contended.

There are, however, other areas that are benefiting from the modernization push, such as the Space Force’s utilization of satellites for ground moving target indicators, or GMTI, and the increased use of artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Kendall once again pressed Congress to give the Air and Space Forces the resources they need to be successful.

“Several years ago, I messaged members of Congress and to anyone who would listen and said, ‘We are running out of time,’” Kendall said.

“Today, we are out of time,” he concluded.

Shown is a B-21 Raider artist rendering graphic. The rendering highlights the future stealth bomber with Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., as the backdrop. Designed to perform long range conventional and nuclear missions and to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment, the B-21 will be a visible and flexible component of the nuclear triad. (U.S. Air Force graphic)

B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber

Earlier artist rendering.
Image: U.S. Air Force

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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