What Makes the B-21 Special: The United States is just one of three nations that continue to operate long-range, strategic bombers – and the aircraft in service with the United States Air Force date back decades. In fact, “the newest” bomber in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet is the North B-2 Spirit, which ended production in 2000 – while the service continues to rely on aircraft dating back to the Cold War, including the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and Rockwell B-1 Lancer.
B-21 Raider, Explained
However, those aging warbirds will eventually be replaced by the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, which is expected to enter service by the end of the decade. The Raider will be capable of penetrating the toughest defenses to deliver precision strikes anywhere in the world.
It Will Be Unveiled In December
The stealth bomber isn’t actually what could be described as a “well-kept secret,” but only a few select lawmakers have been able to see the aircraft up close. The Air Force will finally reveal the B-21 Raider to the public in the first week of December during an unveiling ceremony hosted and sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Corporation at its production facilities in Palmdale, California.
It Was Named For World War II Heroes
According to the Air Force, the B-21 Raider was named in honor of the historic Doolittle Raiders, the U.S. Army Air Force pilots who are remembered today for their surprise attack against Japan during World War II on April 18, 1942, which forced the Japanese to recall combat forces for home defense, and boosted morale among Americans and U.S. allies abroad.
The designation B-21 recognizes the Raider as the first bomber of the 21st century.
Very Specific Role
The B-21 Raider was developed to provide the United States with a strategic asset capable of penetrating enemy air defenses and reaching targets anywhere in the world — something approximately 90 percent of the nation’s current bomber fleet is incapable of doing.
The Raider will also be a dual-capable bomber, which means it can deliver both conventional and nuclear munitions.
South Dakota Bound First
Even after it enters service, the B-21 Raider could still be a rare sight for most aviation buffs. Its planned home will be Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), South Dakota – while Dyess AFB, Texas; and Whiteman AFB, Missouri could host the Raider in the future. Some of the facilities supporting the first B-21 Raider unit at Ellsworth AFB are now on track to be ready by 2024.
In addition, the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, California will host the B-21 Combined Test Force, while the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma is the site for depot planning.
One aspect not known about the B-21 is how many jobs it has created. Northrop Grumman would only say that it supports thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the country.
B-21 Australian Sales?
Only two other countries – China and Russia – currently operate long-range strategic bombers, but there is now speculation that the U.S. could sell the B-21 Raider to Australia. If such a deal is made, however, Canberra would likely be supplied with a B-21 variant that is only capable of conventional strikes.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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