The event began with the signing of the national anthem by a Northrup Grumman employee. As the lyrics went on, the current bombers of the U.S. Air Force made a flyby over the hangar.
First came the venerable B-52 Stratofortress, then the B-1 Lancer with an impressive afterburner pass, before ending with the B-2 Spirit, the stealth bomber that resembles most closely the B-21 Raider.
After a short speech by a Northrup Grumman executive, the lights dimmed, and the gates opened with dramatic music playing in the background. And there it was! The B-21 Raider covered under a huge white sheet. And then the sheet was pulled back, and the B-21 Raider made its first appearance.
True to its name, the B-21 Raider looks ready to take the fight to the enemy but in a very classy way. With a sleek airframe straight out of a sci-fi film, the B-21 Raider must be one of the more beautiful aircraft to take to the skies.
B-21: A Beautiful Aircraft
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Navy Admiral Christopher Grady gave a short speech before Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin came to the stage.
The B-21 Raider is “a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation,” Austin said, and a living proof of the Pentagon’s “long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”
Then Austin started talking about the capabilities of the B-21 Raider.
“Let’s talk about the B-21’s range. No other long-range bomber can match its efficiency. It won’t need to be based in-theater. It won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk, Let’s talk about the B-21’s stealth. Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft. And even the most sophisticated air-defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky. Let’s talk about the B-21’s durability. You know, we really don’t have a capability unless we can maintain it. And the B-21 is carefully designed to be the most maintainable bomber ever built,” the defense secretary said.
Austin also stressed the multifunctionality of the B-21 Raider, stating that the strategic stealth bomber “can handle anything from gathering intel to battle management to integrating with our allies and partners. And it will work seamlessly across domains, and theaters, and across the joint force.”
The aircraft is expected to fly in 2023.
The B-21 Raider
America’s new strategic stealth bomber is dual-capable, meaning that it can deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons.
As the primary delivery method of nuclear weapons from the air, it will become an integral part of the U.S. military’s nuclear triad and U.S. nuclear deterrence.
The Air Force aims at purchasing more than 100 B-21 Raiders and will pair them with the venerable B-52 Stratofortress—which is set to fly for more than 100 years—to form its future bomber fleet. This means that the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit will be gradually retired.
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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.