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B-21 Raider: The Stealth Bomber That Makes Russia and China All Sorts of Nervous

A U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit refuels from a 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during the Bomber Task Force training exercise over England, Aug. 29, 2019. The B-2 aircraft will operate out of RAF Fairford, England, and will exercise there at U.S. Air Forces in Europe's forward operating location for bombers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Because of the prohibitive cost of designing, developing, and fielding a strategic bomber force, only three countries field strategic bombers, able to hit continents thousands of miles away; China, Russia, and the United States.

And the B-21 Raider stealth bomber is set to provide the U.S. Air Force with 100 bombers for at least the next 30 years

The B-21 Raider gets its name honoring the Doolittle Raiders, U.S. Army Air Force men during World War II. Just months after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. suffering defeat after defeat in the Pacific theater, President Roosevelt ordered a sneak attack on the Japanese homeland. 

It was hoped that it would boost the morale of the people in the mainland U.S. On April 18, 1942, Colonel Jimmy Doolittle used B-25 Mitchell land bombers and took off from the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Hornet and hit several Japanese cities before flying to then-ally China. The raid shocked Japan’s high command and forced the Japanese to recall combat forces for home defense. The designation B-21 recognizes the Raider as the first bomber of the 21st century.

Role For the B-21 and The General Characteristics of the Raider

The B-21 Raider is a new high-tech stealth bomber being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet of B-1s, B-2s, and B-52s. The Raider will be able to penetrate enemy air defenses anywhere in the world, hit targets, and return safely home, which 90 percent of the USAF’s current bomber fleet cannot do.

Designed to be long-range, highly survivable, and capable of carrying a mix of conventional and nuclear weapons, the B-21 is scheduled to begin replacing the B-1 bombers by 2025 and ultimately replace them by 2036.

The Air Force is currently planning on purchasing 100 Raiders, but there are some defense analysts that believe that the Air Force should buy 200 B-21s. 

The Air Force is expected to reveal the B-21 Raider sometime later this year, according to Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), the only Congressional member to make a classified visit to the production facility in Palmdale, CA.

“While much of the information I received on my visit is classified, I am pleased to report the B-21 is on time and on budget,” Rounds said after his visit. “The public can expect the B-21 to be revealed later this year.”

There have only been artist renderings thus far of the Raider, so the unveiling is bound to attract a lot of attention. The Air Force has identified Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), South Dakota, as the first base to receive B-21s, and formal crew training will be conducted there. Ultimately, other Raider bases will be located at Dyess AFB, Texas, and Whiteman AFB, Missouri. Tinker AFB Oklahoma will provide maintenance for the Raiders, while Edwards AFB, California, will provide the location for testing and evaluation for the B-21s.

Australia May Be Involved in the Program

One of the surprises of the B-21 Raider program was an announcement that the U.S. may consider providing Australia with B-21s as a deterrent to China’s expansionist goals in the South Pacific.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, met with  Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) official Robert Chipman in Canberra earlier this week and made a statement that Washington is considering it. 

“We are in what I consider to be a race for military technological superiority with the Chinese,” Kendall said to the Australian website The Strategist, which is affiliated with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.


B-21 Raider artist rendering. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“I don’t think that there’s any fundamental limitation on the areas in which we can cooperate,” the secretary said. “If Australia had a requirement for long-range strike … then we’d be willing to have a conversation with them about that,” he added.

Another intriguing development in the program is that the B-21 Raider will operate drones such as the Air Force’s Valkyrie drone. The Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz told media members during the Air Force’s budgetary hearing for FY 2023, “We are assessing the potential to introduce a lower cost, complementary, uncrewed aircraft into the B-21 to provide an enhanced level of capability.”

This will allow manned crews to operate at a safer stand-off distance from enemy air defenses and a forward sensor platform that will allow the US to conduct surveillance, test enemy air defenses, or even drop weapons directed by a human drone operator.

One of the questions that leaders and analysts always ask, besides the very high cost of a bomber program, is, “Why Does the US need Bombers when We Have Drones and Missiles?” 

Drones and Missiles are great additions to the American arsenal, but neither is as survivable as a stealth bomber. And, despite the prohibitive cost (the cost of producing, testing, and fielding the B-21 fleet is expected to cost $230 billion), stealth bombers are the only platform that can fly intercontinental and penetrate an enemy country’s air defenses and deliver conventional or nuclear weapons.

B-2 Spirit

B-2 Spirit. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The nuclear deterrent of the Raider is a huge part of US strategy as well as those of Russia and China. The Northrop-Grumman B-21 is expected to be a big upgrade over the B-2 as well as being much more survivable and maneuverable than the Spirit. 

With the Cold War B-2s showing their age and the B-52s being flown by the grandchildren of those who flew them generations ago, the B-21 Raider will ensure the US can project power anywhere at any time, against any enemies, real or potential.

Expert Biography: Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. A proven military analyst, he served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

Written By

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.



  1. Abe Ken

    August 27, 2022 at 11:37 pm

    The stealth bomber that dont even exist only paperplane 🤣

  2. Salvatore Falco

    August 28, 2022 at 12:43 am

    Thank the Lord God for giving our country United States of America. Men like Steve courageous faithful strong men. And thank the contractors will be working on this project.

  3. Brn

    August 28, 2022 at 6:16 am

    What because it a terrorist Americans weapon not china’s or Russian it about time Americans grew up they start wars don’t win them unless they power above any nation like terrorist nuke on Japan, global threat to earth is the Americans and there want for power when they don’t even protect there own country with its pedophiles murderers druggies ect America you do not run earth or ever will so sort ya own pedo druggy mess out u murdering terrorist scumbags who cares what weapons you have you not the mind set to win even with them you foolish twats

  4. Carpaithia

    August 28, 2022 at 11:24 am

    Part of this article states that only the B21 can fly ont the other sign of the world and come back undetected…the B2 and B1…have that same capability….the payload is bigger with the B1 over the B2 and has several hard points located on the outside of the fuselage…in which are not being used because of the START treaty…..I personally believe the brass is using the B21 to scrap the B1 in which I believe is a mistake…B1 was always been hated by the airforce brass trying to find excuses to kill it…it proved it self in our recent conflicts…and worked really well

  5. Steve

    August 28, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    Don’t judge a people by their “leader” – The current geriatric in the White House belongs in the big house, and the self-castrated fools that voted for him have resorted to raiding residences and ignoring the blatant crimes of their own party, just to come out with SOMETHING to justify their votes. And America and the rest of the world are paying the price for their arrogance.
    Just like Biden isn’t a legitimate President in the eyes of so many, so too should you not drop everyone into the same basket based on that fool… or the decisions and actions of the many fools just like him. Some of us actually live in reality, you should try it too.

  6. Todd

    August 28, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    Exhibit A on what’s wrong with the USA. The 1947 NSA Act that allowed a permanent Army and military industry. My question is this: Can Steve tell us how many Trillions has the Pentagon lost?

  7. Your Worst Nightmare

    August 28, 2022 at 2:37 pm


  8. Doug Walmer

    August 28, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    BRN- Insecure, jealous, weak pieces of dog crap like you and your nation can only whine and complain about our great and strong nation. We will wipe the floor with you and your weak military and have you surrendering and carrying for us to stop. Stay home in your third world hellhole and leave the fighting to professionals. DW

  9. Dan Roberts

    August 30, 2022 at 10:07 am


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