Military

Next-generation B-21 Raider heavy bomber passes design review

Next-generation B-21 Raider he...
Artist's rendering of the B-21 Raider
Artist's rendering of the B-21 Raider
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Artist's rendering of the B-21 Raider
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Artist's rendering of the B-21 Raider

The US Air Force's next strategic heavy bomber has passed a critical design review. On November 28 to 30, the US Defense Department carried out a multi-disciplined technical evaluation of the proposed B-21 Raider to see if its design was stable and mature enough to warrant moving on to manufacturing and flight testing, and the evaluation has determined that significant progress has been made on the three-year old project.

The United States is almost unique in the field of strategic bombers, where other air forces rely on tactical bombers to deliver ordnance, only the US and Russia still have heavy, long-range bombers as part of their active inventories. Currently, the US Air Force fields three heavies developed during the Cold War, the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 lancer, and the B-2 Spirit.

Though these aircraft have served well for decades and the B-52 is so over-engineered that the grandchildren of the original pilots are now flying them, the US strategic bomber wings are showing their age and their technological obsolescence. It's for this reason that the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office set up the Long Range Strike Bomber program (LRS-B), which led to the B-21's development by Northrop Grumman.

The purpose of the B-21 will be to provide a long-range stealth platform with a high survival capability for penetrating enemy airspace to deliver conventional and thermonuclear weapons. It's also expected to handle, with the aid of long-range fighter cover, any future anti-access and area denial systems that might be fielded against it.

Though very few technical details have been released, it's expected to have a basic design similar to the B-2. If all goes according to plan, it's anticipated the B-21 will enter service by 2025, when it will operate alongside other strategic bombers before eventually replacing them.

"The Air Force is pleased with how the program is moving forward," says Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. "The B-21 Raider program is on the right track to make continued progress over the next few years as it now transitions from the design phase into a robust manufacturing phase that will ultimately produce our first B-21 test aircraft."

Source: US Air Force

5 comments
Derek Howe
While I like this aircraft, costs always worry me. If you want this to (finally) retire all B-52's, then you have to look at the missions it performs, and the price tag that it carries. If this is far higher...then that is not a job well done by the USAF. It's like when the USAF said the F-35 will replace the A-10...ummm yeeeeaaah, no, no it won't/didn't. They need to keep a keen eye on the price tag. I also don't like that it's subsonic, unless it's going to actually replace (retire) the B-2's.
jerryd
Planes are not rocket science and the military should be building their own as we can't afford the stupidly high cost now. And they need something to do when not fighting wars, etc. What we need are equipment, weapons carriers that are robust and upgradeable. And what is with the shape? A wide diamond with be far better as able to be lighter, easier to build, make stealth with more lift area with more interior for internal weapons.
WillNC
I'm an old guy who served in the USAF during Vietnam maintaining two cruise missiles that used to be on the B52. SAC trained killers we used to call ourselves. At this point in my life experience I do not see a need for another expensive weapons system no matter how technologically advanced. With advances in robotic/ai/hypersonic drones/fighter planes/battlefield lasers and three models of manned bombers why is a new one needed. I don't think truer words were spoken when President Eisenhower made the statement about the MIC.
apprenticeearthwiz
Like the Mallard steam train it's probably the last iteration of a soon to be redundant technology. Our species is in transition towards a sustainable future whether we like it or not, know it or not or even make it or not. It's key to our species survival since, by definition, unsustainable is terminal. Despite being insanely profitable, war is unsustainable and, one way or another, it's going to stop. Unsustainable is terminal.
yawood
The human species is going to stop fighting because it is unsustainable? Tell him he's dreamin'.