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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

B-21 Raider: The Stealth Bomber Built for a Russia or China War

B-2 Bomber. The B-21 Raider will look very similar.

The B-21 Raider Could be the First Step to Rebuilding the United States Air Force: Though the United States Air Force is the largest aviation service in the world, with nearly one and a half times the number of aircraft of Russia and almost two and a half times that of China, it was still ranked as “very weak” by the Heritage Foundation’s 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength.

At issue were a number of factors, including an ongoing pilot shortage, low flying hours, and aging aircraft.

The report, which rated the U.S. military in general as weak, warned that America’s key adversaries—China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea—are advancing their military capabilities and intimidating U.S. partners.  

The Air Force rating was also a downgrade from an assessment of “weak” in the 2022 Index.

The conservative think tank further stated that it would be difficult for the Air Force to respond rapidly to a crisis and dominate airspace without increased pilot training and a greater number of fifth-generation weapon systems.

What is notable about this recent report is that in the inaugural 2015 index, the Air Force was the only service given a rating of “strong,” buoyed by positive marks in capacity and readiness.

Rebuilding the Air Force – Enter the B-21

The Air Force will have a long way to go to rectify all of the issues it faces, but the road to its recovery may have officially begun last Friday at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California, facilities.

“The unveiling of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber heralds the arrival of the next generation of U.S. aerospace platforms, and lays down the gauntlet to those seeking to challenge American airpower such as Russia and China,” said Harry Boneham, aerospace analyst at international analytics firm GlobalData.

“It is expected that the B-21 will enter service in the mid-2020s, and will be followed by the US Air Force’s NGAD and US Navy’s F/A-XX sixth-generation aircraft in the mid-to-late 2030s. When they enter service in the not-too-distant future, they will be a daunting prospect to near-peer adversaries,” Boneham said via an email to 19FortyFive.

The B-21 is expected to replace both the B-2 Spirit and B-1B Lancer, forming the backbone of the US Air Force strategic bomber force alongside the B-52 Stratofortress bombers that are expected to remain in service until the 2040s or later.

“With at least 100 platforms to be procured, far exceeding the twenty B-2s in inventory, the Air Force is investing heavily in the B-21’s capability,” Boneham noted.

“It could be argued that this is because the Air Force envisages that, in future conflicts, the B-21 will play a different role—or at least supplementary roles—to the B-2 Spirit.”

Moreover, the B-21 will not only serve as a strategic deterrent.

In hypothetical conflicts against adversaries such as China, long-range, stealthy precision strikes against critical sites such as anti-ship missile targets will be a pivotal capability.

However, the United States Air Force is not alone in developing a new long-range strategic bomber, and rival programs are also progressing.

“In China, a concept aircraft for a sixth-generation fighter for the PLAAF was unveiled at Zhuhai Air Show in 2022. This development program is believed to be credibly advancing and could deliver a platform to service in the mid-2030s,” Boneham continued.

“This underscores the importance of U.S. progress in the rapid development and delivery of next-gen platforms such as the B-21. It is essential that the U.S. gains these capabilities prior to near-peer adversaries such as China or Russia in order to have a deterrent effect.”

A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He 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 and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, 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.



  1. Commentar

    December 7, 2022 at 11:48 am

    In the 21st century, humankind shouldn’t be looking for wars, but sadly with headstrong globalists purely & surely in charge, wars are like mandatory or requisite watching of favorite reruns on TV.

    But back to b-21, the much exalted stealth intruder is the latest ultimate aerial ninja or to many others, the ultimate aphrodisiac military toy and/or ultimate phallic symbol for military generals to wave around.

    B-21s good for use against nations like Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Libya, Iraq, Iran but virtually no good against nations like Russia & china.

    Those two have formations of satellites in orbit that watch over b-21 bases in Missouri and south Dakota and Texas.

    While b-21s can evade high frequency radars, they aren’t guaranteed to evade lo-frequency long wavelength over-the-horizon military radars cued by E/O sensors and other assets in space.

    The big big worry then is if a war president in the oval office issues a direct bald threat (like the one against the Nord stream pipes) and then following the lewd threat a b-21 heads in a certain direction toward a certain place.

    What should nations with vast formations of super duper spy satellites in the sky do, how should they respond.

    They’ve a duty to protect their citizens, unlike the pipes which benefit a foreign buyer. So, as the b-21 approaches, detonate a mini tactical nuke in its path, preferably a neutron warhead or an EMP-optimized warhead.

    Thus b-21 just a limited in effectiveness war aphrodisiac or phallic war symbol.

  2. Jim

    December 7, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    As a strategic Bomber the B-21 is pretty, but extremely expensive… and should be able to penetrate air defenses.

    But stand-off weapons are the state-of-the-art military technology, today and into the future.

    It is not necessary to penetrate air defenses with penetrating bombers to make sure payload hits the target.

    Thus, the B-21, while a wonder of military technology is a “trow back” to the mind set of “dumb bomb” necessity: being over the target.

    Likely cost over runs will lead to less than the projected 100 aircraft.

    If Ukraine has shown anything, in a long conventional war, quantity is a military necessity.

    (Yes, I understand the B-21 is a strategic nuclear bomber… reserved for that last nuclear strike… that ends the world as we know it.)

    The B-21 is emblematic of U. S. military’s penchant to over technologize military equipment to make the most money for MIC, but leaves America with the most expensive military complex in World History, and with low actual effectiveness and multiplicity (with every piece as expensive as the Hope Diamond and as rare, too.)

    Functionality & multiplicity should be the mantra.

    As opposed to the few, the proud, the high tech.

    (With expensive “white elephant” technology.)

    A whole new mind set has to be implemented regarding America’s military force structure.

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