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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

B-21 Raider: The Future of the U.S. Air Force Has Arrived

B-21 Raider
B-21 Raider

B-21 Raider: In December, the U.S. Air Force revealed its highly classified new stealth bombera cutting-edge weapon the service hopes will become the military’s premier bomber.

Intended to embody the future of long-range strike, the B-21 Raider will join the military’s triad as a formidable deterrent once commissioned into the Air Force.

This sixth-generation stealth bomber is intended to replace the Rockwell B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit by 2040.

Capable of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons, the Raider will likely remain the mainstay of the Air Force for decades to come.

Origin of the “Raider”

The B-21 was named to honor the “Doolittle Raiders,” 80 men whose innovation and risk-taking altered the course of World War II. In 1942, the Raiders launched 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers off the flight deck of the USS Hornet despite the airframes not being designed for carrier take-offs.

Northrop Grumman’s B-21 bomber will honor the legacy of the original Raiders by allowing the military to achieve air superiority over U.S. adversaries.

The Long Range Strike Bomber program started in 2011, and Northrop Grumman was awarded the coveted development contract a few years later.

At that time, reports suggested the new bomber would function as an intelligence collection platform in addition to its weapons capabilities.

In 2018, the program passed its critical design review, and the Air Force selected Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to host the bomber and its training unit. 

Raider Specs That We Know

Slated to replace the Air Force’s 63 B-1 strategic bombers and 20 B-2 bombers, the Raider may also supersede the B-52 Stratofortress.

Although a lot of information regarding the upcoming bomber has yet to be publicized, the Raider appears to be much smaller than its Spirit predecessor.

Additionally, some analysts believe the B-21 will sport half of the B-2’s 60,000-pound payload capacity. Sandboxx News also suggests that the Raider’s wingspan could be approximately 15% shorter than the Spirit. Having a smaller frame will give the Raider a significant advantage, as it will be harder to detect on radar. W

hile the bomber is expected to be on the smaller side, its weapons-carrying capacity will be massive

What Makes the B-21 Raider So Special?

Perhaps more impressive is the B-21’s modularity, and specifically the cloud technology it incorporates. Similarly to the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, the Raider will include modular systems that can be upgraded and altered as technology evolves.

In the past, platforms would have to be essentially gutted to support new changes or software updates, which could take a while and cost a lot to achieve. The B-21’s ability to easily adapt to new systems will ensure the bomber can stay relevant over time. 

The B-21 Raider’s recent reveal came amid a time of global turbulence. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s increasing acts of hostility toward Taiwan, the introduction of a sixth-generation bomber will help shape the balance in great power competition. 

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Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. 

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.



  1. 403Forbidden

    February 14, 2023 at 10:31 pm

    B-21 a big humbug.

    The US in the coming years will fully launch the great ww3 with its Ford carriers of the Navy in conjunction with the use of the Army’s ground-based hypersonic arsenal.

    B-21 ???

    Use of B-21s will only invite retaliatory strikes directly targeting the continental US, something no commander worth his salt would want to see.

    But Ford carriers plus Army batteries housed on foreign soil won’t be hitting targets while sitting pretty inside Washington DC….or Miami city in sunshine state of Florida.

    US perennial aim is to ignite wars & conflicts far away from US shores so as to protect american homeland.

    Use of B-21s will not be congruent with that aim or jive with the longstanding US military policy of strictly hatching havoc & destruction in faraway areas.

  2. marc legget

    February 28, 2023 at 1:40 am


    Please take your gibbersh back to the troll farm. America’s support of freedom the world over has brought freedom and democracy to more portions of the world than any other country in history. And America will continue to be a bastion of freedom (Trumpf and the MAGA base notwithstanding).

    America and its western world allies as well as the countries that aspire toward joining that democratically ruled club of nations are the only thing standing between despots, dictators and religious extremists who want to take the world backward merely to benefit themselves or their groups causing harm and great deprivation to the vast majority of people living in the world today.

    While you mock the United States, what country would you point to as one that supports freedom and the betterment of all people, not just a small cabal of its “elites” as chosen by a despotic ruler or cleric of some religious extremist faction? Your answer, which I doubt will be intelligible, will go far toward exposing your bias. Mine is clear: I’ll take freedom over tyranny every weekday and twice on Saturdays and Sundays.

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