New B-21 Stealth Bomber Ready to Take on a ‘Belligerent’ China – A key U.S. senator who sits on the Senate Armed Service Committee has finally articulated what many defense analysts have already speculated on – that the new B-21 Raider bomber is being manufactured to someday take on China.
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota said recently that the B-21 will play a critical role against China to ensure that its military would not attack Taiwan or bully U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific in any way.
“It is actually our China deterrence weapon,” Rounds told South Dakota State Public Broadcasting. “We have the ability to let China and others know that should they become belligerent that this particular platform can carry nuclear weapons. It can carry conventional weapons, as well,” Rounds said. “It can do so and penetrate their most advanced air protection systems—their air defense systems—and take out some of the most sensitive sights that they have if we perceive that they are going to be or are using them in an offensive capability.”
Telling It Like It Is on B-21
This is probably one of the most direct statements by civilian or military leadership about the role the B-21 would play in future conflict. It is interesting that Rounds also mentioned “others” in his statement. That likely means Russia or even Iran and North Korea could someday be deterred by the B-21 when it is deployed in squadrons. President Joe Biden has refrained from using U.S. personnel directly in Ukraine other than a handful of special operations forces who are providing advice and training. So America is not engaging in direct war with Russia, but the Moscow’s nuclear arsenal is always a worry. Iran and North Korea are also mentioned as U.S. adversaries and those governments would be concerned about an intercontinental nuclear-equipped bomber like the B-21.
South Dakota Is Bullish on the B-21
Senator Rounds is a big fan of the $700 million B-21 because the airplane will be housed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Six are currently being assembled at the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, California. A vice president from the mammoth defense contractor also has explained how important threats from China could be addresses by the B-21.
When the B-21 was publicly unveiled in December, Northrop Grumman offered viewers a livestream of the event. Northrop’s Scott Vander Hamm said that 80 million people registered and watched. He added that more than 25 percent of these IP addresses were from China. This signifies that many in the country are interested in or maybe even concerned or scared about the B-21’s development. Vander Hamm said that “we sent a clear message” of deterrence to Beijing.
The first flight of the B-21 will be later this year and by the middle of the decade, the stealth bomber will be deployed at Ellsworth.
Leader of the Pack
The B-21 is expected to carry nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles. The bomber’s range is over 6,000 miles with a top speed of around 600 miles per hour. The B-21 can also act as an “airborne data hub.” This will allow it to get its ordnance to the target quickly by integrating intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data from F-35s and other sources.
Designers want to make sure the B-21 is easy to maintain and can stay in the air for long periods, so older bombers in the U.S. Air Force fleet can be retired.
The B-21 will be a significant asset for the U.S. military. China is concerned about its development – not to mention Russia, Iran, and North Korea. American adversaries will closely watch the events leading up to the deployment of new American weapons systems.
But according to political leaders and the B-21’s manufacturer, China is the main adversary that the bomber can help deter, especially when it comes to improving the American nuclear triad.
So, the B-21 is putting Beijing on warning.
Author Expertise and Experience:
Serving as 19FortyFive’s Defense and National Security Editor, Dr. Brent M. Eastwood is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and Foreign Policy/ International Relations.