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B-21 Raider: The $200 Billion Stealth Bomber?

B-21
Image of B-2 Bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The B-21 Raider stealth bomber, currently in low-rate production, is the next major military aircraft being developed by the US Air Force. Now, a new report looks at what the government is expected to spend on the program.

According to Bloomberg News, which cited “new service estimates,” the B-21 stealth bomber will cost taxpayers $203 billion through the 2050s. That price tag includes $25.1 billion for development, $64 billion for production, and $114 billion for “30 years of sustaining and operating a fleet of 100 bombers.”

In a statement to the news outlet, Air Force acting acquisition chief Darlene Costello stated that  the estimate “will become more mature when the program begins fielding aircraft and accumulating actual costs- manpower, maintenance, modifications, flying hours, fuel consumption.”

The estimate is described by Bloomberg as “an attempt by the Air Force to make good on a vow to help prevent sticker shock among lawmakers by providing more transparency on cost data as the secretive aircraft proceeds through development. This is following the rollout in the 1980s of the B-2, with the government revealing at the end of the process that it had spent way more than projected on the project.

The estimate is based on the current idea of building 100 of the B-21s. However, a recent report argued that the Air Force should be ordering way more than that.

A report this fall from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) said that the U.S. should build a minimum of 164 Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bombers.

“When considering theoretical requirements of up to 200-plus bombers to prosecute a penetrating strike mission against a great power such as Russia or China, it is better to err on the side of caution and maintain a healthy complement (24) of backup and attrition aircraft,” report authors Jerry Hendrix, CNAS director of defense studies and Air Force Lt. Col. James Price wrote at the time.

“While each AEF comprises an assortment of tactical, strategic, and logistical aircraft, the current Air Force force structure is unable to meet the requirement to supply each AEF with one bomber squadron made up of a minimum of 10 and optimally 12 bombers,” they said.

“When it comes to delivering America’s resolve, the B-21 Raider will be standing by, silent and ready,” Northrop Grumman says on its website. “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.”

 Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Dan

    November 18, 2021 at 11:16 am

    “This is following the rollout in the 1980s of the B-2, with the government revealing at the end of the process that it had spent way more than projected on the project.”

    The Federal Government changed the original design of the B-2 into a low-altitude terrain-following aircraft. This idiotic requirement alone added untold cost for a capability that has never been and will never be employed.

    The Federal Government then ordered 132 B-2 bombers. The program responded with nationwide facilities, systems and suppliers capable of building those 132 airframes and associated subsystems.

    Then the same Federal Government slashed the order to 20 (later 21) airframes. Not exactly an “economy of scale.”

    Worse, to shut the program down, the Federal Government in the end paid as much as the original cost. Except the taxpayers received only 21 of the 132 planes ordered.

    Typical government waste of other peoples money.

    Mr. Silver, you might investigate how much the US Government spends on, say, Education, and contrast its return on investment.

    The B-2 has delivered performance as promised and has also been a remarkably flexible weapons platform (not just a penetrating cold-war nuclear bomber) since it first flew in 1989.

  2. Jason

    November 18, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Education for the most part is funded by local taxes with property taxes. When discussing defense, the education cry is typical erroneous propaganda of the extreme left and tips your hand. As if the spending of one impacts or takes away from the other. It does not. Why would Silver comment on Education spending when he writes Defense articles. The implied moral superiority you posture, you do not have in this argument/discussion. Not is Silver not mentioning local education funding relevant to the article.

  3. Dave

    November 18, 2021 at 5:07 pm

    Bravo Dan!!! Well said. At the end of the day, with military spending, we end up with assets and a means of protecting ourselves. What will we get from the 1.5T infrastructure bill, of which a fraction of it will actually go to infrastructure? More wealthy politicians and their network of lobbyists.

  4. Phil

    November 18, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    This is an age of if it ‘flys it can be defeated’. It’s crazy to think otherwise. Simply more and more spending equals more and more jobs. Where does it end? It will not until we are all on the same boat.

  5. Joe Smith

    November 18, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    Even on a successful airplane program you need to produce 3oo planes minimum to break even on the tooling. 1200 to make a profit.
    That’s not going to happen here.

  6. Lsi

    November 19, 2021 at 6:20 am

    It is time we cut our military back to ONLY defend the USA and let the rest of the world take care of itself. We spend trillions building weapons to fight a world war, squander the lives and limbs of young men and women, while the rest of the world does nothing to protect itself. A big military invites adventurism and our involvement in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Syria, Libya and a host of other debacles shows it. Put America first!

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