On December 2, the Air Force and Northrop Grumman will unveil America’s next strategic nuclear bomber.
According to the Air Force, the B-21 Raider will be “a dual-capable penetrating strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The B-21 Raider will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force consisting of B-21s and B-52s. Designed to operate in tomorrow’s high-end threat environment, the B-21 Raider will play a critical role in ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability.”
The B-21 Raider and Nukes
The U.S. military is long due to update its nuclear arsenal. All three legs of the nuclear triad, the air, naval, and ground nuclear weapons of the U.S., need urgent modernization so as not to become obsolete.
The B-21 Raider is set to become the main delivery aircraft of the nuclear triad’s air component. As a result, there is a lot depending on the effectiveness of the strategic stealth bomber. Should one leg of the nuclear triad become ineffective, the U.S. military’s whole nuclear deterrence would be at risk.
The B-21 Raider will be part of a larger family of manned and unmanned systems that will be able to conduct strategic long range strike, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic attack, among other mission sets. The B-21 Raider, specifically, will be able to carry both conventional and nuclear munitions, including stand-off, stand-in, and direct-attack weapons. The B-21 Raider has been designed with mainly China in mind. Hands down, Beijing poses the most important national security threat to the U.S.
The History Behind the B-21 Raider
When it comes to the name of the U.S. military’s future strategic bomber, the Air Force chose “Raider” in honor of the Doolittle Raiders of the U.S. Army Air Force Corps, who were the first to avenge the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On April 18, 1942, approximately four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers attacked the Japanese capital of Tokyo to send a message to Imperial Japan that the U.S. was very much still in the war.
The attack resulted in minor physical damage to the Japanese capital and some military and civilian casualties, with the loss of all 16 bombers, which either crash-landed in China or Russia. But despite the minor physical damage caused by the Doolittle Raiders, the air raid had a great psychological effect in the U.S., galvanizing a population that had been greatly shocked by the defeat at Pearl Harbor as well as to the allied forces in general, especially the British, Australians, and New Zealanders, who had also suffered heavy defeats by the Japanese in the Pacific theater of operations.
Moreover, the attack forced the Imperial Japanese military to recall combat forces for the protection of the home islands, thus weakening the Japanese position elsewhere in the Pacific and making the job of the U.S. military easier.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.