The Air Force proposed a request for an LRSP (Long Range Strike Bomber) for their operations in the 21st century. The request was called upon by the Northrop Grumman who proposed their own idea for a long-range strategic and stealth bomber under the designation B-21 Raider which will be able to deliver both the conventional as well as the thermonuclear weapon strikes.
The name of this aircraft was given after one of the surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders’ survivor; Lieutenant Colonel Richards E. Cole. The only thing that is clear about this aircraft is its appearance as per the Northrop Grumman which makes it seem extremely similar to the B-2 Spirit while the true specifications of it have not been disclosed for public information.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is expected to make its debut in active service sometime in 2025 and will be part of the fleet that includes other bomber aircraft of US like the following.
- Rockwell B-1 Lancer
- Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
- Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
While at first, it will complement these aircraft and then gradually replace them altogether.
As we said earlier that there is not much information available about this aircraft’s specification still we have uncovered a few interesting facts about the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider; US’s new stealth bomber which are as follows.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is going to a manned bomber aircraft. This manual manning has been placed in by US Air Force as a mandatory to keep at least one human pilot at the helm of the aircraft because this aircraft will be the one that will be tasked with dropping nuclear payloads. In addition to this, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider will also have the following roles as well.
- Command coordination
- Mission targeting
Due to the aircraft being similar in many aspects to the B-2 Spirit, it will have the ability to remain in the air for a long period of time at altitudes of nearly 80000 feet. This is a strategic point of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider which will allow the aircraft to be aware of any oncoming surface to air and air-to-air weapons and leave the airspace before even a need to make emergency evacuation manoeuvres.
The design of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider looks to be extremely similar to that of the B-2 Spirit with some additional design elements incorporated that are required by such stealth bombers.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is being built under the original concepts for an ASPA (Advanced Strategic Penetration Aircraft). This designation for an aircraft means that it will have the ability penetrate deep into the enemy territory without even getting detected. This assures the aircraft’s ability to deliver its nuclear or conventional payload even before the enemy has ample time for mobilizing a response.
The thing that is known for certain at this junction about Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is its cost, which is about 550 million dollars for one of the B-21 Raider. The jet design for the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is similar to that of F-35 Lightning II which causes its engine cost to reduce greatly. Still, this figure of 550 million is going to increase as the finishing product comes into being.
The initial plan of the US Air Force is to acquire nearly 100 f these new stealth bombers for their aerial fleet. If the aircraft has the same load-carrying capacity as the B-2 Spirit, it will also be able to carry nearly or a little above 40000 pounds worth of ordinance.
For the FY2018, Air Force requested the Congress for funding of nearly 2 billion dollars which is beings pent entirely for creating the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.
Details Shrouded in Mystery
The final details of this aircraft are not to be made available for anyone until the project is completed and is in operational condition. This has been done after Air Force made a repeated request for the keeping the nature of the aircraft completely classified until it is operational.
In the past, the details about any stealth bomber or a jet come to public knowledge after it suffers from a crash in training or being hit by enemy forces. The best example of this is the F-117 Nighthawk that was shot down in the 1999s conflict of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Back on 27th March 1999, a surface to air missile was shot by Serbian forces that struck the F-117 which was on a stylish mission over enemy’s airspace. The pilot was able to eject safely from the aircraft and was saved but the Russian and Chinese came on to the scene of the F-117’s wreckage and deduced the aspects of the aircraft that were previously classified. This is the only scenario when the classified information also tends to trickle out for public about some stealth aircraft.
There does not seem to be any kind of exact timeline when the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider will be delivered to the USAF but as per news, the development of the aircraft is on schedule. An interview for the Head of Air Force Global Strike Command named Robin Ran was conducted back in 2017 in which he said that he was completely content with the pace of and schedule of the B-21’s development. As for the when he was asked about the timeline for this project, he said as follows,
“At this stage of the journey — and it is still in its infancy stage — I am thrilled. I believe … we have the opportunity with the B-21 to be a benchmark acquisition program with us and Northrop. And I say that because we have been partners for the last 30 years on stealth, low observable [technologies], so we already have a track record. And we have the benefit to draw the lessons learned on what went well and didn’t go so well with the B-2 and apply those to this. We also have the benefit of learning from the F-22 and the F-35. And I think there is really a neat opportunity that we can be on time and on cost and deliver this incredibly lethal platform that we are going to need to get us well into the 21st century.”
Well, the only thing we can do is wait when the B-21 Raider makes it debut for the USAF but one thing is clear; this is going to change the aerial warfare for good in favor of the US.