The U.S. Military unveiled its new strategic long-range stealth bomber this week, Northrop Grumman’s B-21 Raider, which will serve as the backbone of the future for U.S. air power for decades to come.
The U.S. Air Force unveiled the bomber at a special ceremony in Palmdale, California, Friday night.
The bomber will become operational in the next few years and will slowly phase out aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers that are currently in service.
The B-21 is the first new bomber that the U.S. has developed since the end of the Cold War, more than three decades ago. Officials expect to have at least 100 B-21s in service, costing nearly $700 million each.
Northrop Grumman highlighted several key features about the new bomber:
Sixth Generation. The B-21 Raider benefits from more than three decades of strike and stealth technology. It is the next evolution of the Air Force strategic bomber fleet. Developed with the next generation of stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities and an open systems architecture, the B-21 is optimized for the high-end threat environment. It will play a critical role in helping the Air Force meet its most complex missions.
Stealth. Northrop Grumman is continuously advancing technology, employing new manufacturing techniques and materials to ensure the B-21 will defeat the anti-access, area-denial systems it will face.
Backbone of the Fleet. The B-21 Raider forms the backbone of the future for U.S. air power. The B-21 will deliver a new era of capability and flexibility through advanced integration of data, sensors and weapons. Capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear payloads, the B-21 will be one of the most effective aircraft in the sky, with the ability to use a broad mix of stand-off and direct attack munitions.
A Digital Bomber. The B-21 is a digital bomber. Northrop Grumman uses agile software development, advanced manufacturing techniques and digital engineering tools to help mitigate production risk on the B-21 program and enable modern sustainment practices. Six B-21 Raiders are in various stages of final assembly and test at Northrop Grumman’s plant in Palmdale, California.
Cloud Technology. Northrop Grumman and the Air Force successfully demonstrated the migration of B-21 ground systems data to a cloud environment. This demonstration included the development, deployment and test of B-21 data, including the B-21 digital twin, that will support B-21 operations and sustainment. This robust cloud-based digital infrastructure will result in a more maintainable and sustainable aircraft with lower-cost infrastructure.
Open Architecture. To meet the evolving threat environment, the B-21 has been designed from day one for rapid upgradeability. Unlike earlier generation aircraft, the B-21 will not undergo block upgrades. New technology, capabilities and weapons will be seamlessly incorporated through agile software upgrades and built-in hardware flexibility. This will ensure the B-21 Raider can continuously meet the evolving threat head on for decades to come.
Global Reach. The B-21 Raider will be the backbone of the U.S. bomber fleet and pivotal to supporting our nation’s strategic deterrence strategy. In addition to its advanced long-range precision strike capabilities that will afford Combatant Commanders the ability to hold any target, anywhere in the world at risk, it has also been designed as the lead component of a larger family of systems that will deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic attack and multi-domain networking capabilities. In a dynamic global security environment, the B-21 will provide the flexibility and deterrence critical to the security of the U.S. and our allies.
Unveiled today, the B-21 Raider will be a dual-capable, penetrating-strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The B-21 will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force consisting of B-21s and B-52s.(U.S. Air Force photo) pic.twitter.com/X6KSU7sy6U
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) December 3, 2022
“The B-21 Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said during the ceremony. “It is a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”
The B-21 Raider was named in honor of the Doolittle Raid of World War II, which happened on April 18, 1942. The raid was led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, who volunteered to lead America’s first military response to Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Sixteen B-25 medium bombers took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet in a one-way bombing raid that targeted Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya, the U.S. Air Force says. “As did the others who participated in the mission, Doolittle had to bail out, but fortunately landed in a rice paddy in China near Chu Chow. Some of the other flyers lost their lives on the mission.”
Doolittle received the Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for military valor, for his actions. Doolittle also received two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, four Air Medals, and decorations from Great Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, China, and Ecuador.
“For conspicuous leadership above and beyond the call of duty, involving personal valor and intrepidity at an extreme hazard to life,” President Roosevelt said in presenting Doolittle the Medal of Honor. “With the apparent certainty of being forced to land in enemy territory or to perish at sea, Lt. Col. Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.”