At the back of reports of the United States testing their mysterious sixth-generation fighter jet under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the Pentagon has now rolled out the plans for acquiring 180 B-21 Raider Stealth Bombers, which are currently under development.
The advert, which was made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, features contours of three soldiers walking as a fighter jet flies over them. The advert first appeared on Sept. 8 and ran until Sept. 12.
As per reports, the US Air Force, which had earlier called for 80 to 100 stealth bombers in order to bolster the number of bomber squadrons, are now looking at improving on that number, which will be subjected to the pace and success of the development, new installations, and budget availability.
General Arnold Bunch, Commander of Air Force Material Command, who is one of the senior leaders in charge of managing the production and sustainment of the bombers, is of the opinion that the industrial base capacity and the progress of the program so far, may enable the Air Force to “go higher” than the earlier requirements of 100 B-21 bombers.
“As I look at how we set up the mission system and the open systems architecture for the B-21, we are going to retain those aircraft for a long period of time because I am going to bring new technologies in. For small fleets it is hard to get a vendor base,” said Bunch, while speaking to Retired Lieutenant General David Deptula, Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, in an interview recently.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is the newest heavy bomber currently under development for the US Air Force by the American Aerospace and defense giants, Northrop Grumman Corporation, as part of the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program.
The B-21, which will be in service in the next two years, will serve as an advanced very long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber and bring in new dimensions of stealth, software, offensive possibilities, and nuclear deterrence to the U.S. Air Force.
In a recent interview, General Mark E. Weatherington, Commander, Eighth Air Force, and Commander, Joint-Global Strike Operations Center, while speaking with The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, highlighted the role of the bombers in hitting heavily guarded targets due to their unique set of skills.
“The B-21 is intended to stand in and hit heavily defended targets with special-purpose weapons that we can use to strike from a distance or by other means. We know the B-21 will bring unique characteristics with low observability and weapons,” said Weatherington.
The tailless, bat-like B-21 Raider bomber is the futuristic take on its predecessor the B-2 Spirit Bomber, despite having the same physical features.
The aircraft is designed to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons and could be equipped with the Advanced Applications Rotary Launcher (AARL) used by the B-2 bomber, to make use of one bomb bay, enabling it to carry eight bombs or missiles.
Under the instructions of the Air Force, the bomber is being built with an “open architecture” hardware and software system to ensure that future upgrades can be integrated easily to the B-21s so that it can adapt to different missions effectively.
Moreover, the B-21 will be the US’ first multirole bomber and will be loaded with surveillance, communications, drone, or electronic warfare packages to carry out a variety of missions, particularly in denied environments.
The contract to build the B-21 Raider was awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2015 nearly 34 years after the company signed the deal to develop the country’s first-stealth bomber.
As the development of the bomber falls under the Black Program, many details still remain a secret, however, service weapons developers have consistently notified that the program has been progressing successfully, with the bombers scheduled to arrive in the 2020s.