With the US Presidential Elections 2020 in the concluding stage, Americans are destined to soon find out in whose hands will the fate of their country lies for the next four years.
However, be it President Donald Trump or Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden who will seize the throne, they will have to act fast according to the changing dynamics of the South China Sea, where the navies of the US, as well as China, have been flexing their muscle since the turn of the year.
While the Pentagon has enough firepower in its military arsenal with an array of warships, fighter jets, and killer drones to lead a solid offense against Beijing’s advances in the region, the potential addition of a certain modern weapon has the potential to turn the balance of power in US’ favor.
America’s latest B-21 Raider Stealth Bombers are currently well on course to be fielded in a potential South China Sea battle when called upon as soon as they finish being developed.
As per the latest reports, Northrop Grumman has already accelerated the process of building the bombers in the wake of the US Air Force asking for around 180 such bombers.
With the changing scenario, the US Air Force, which had earlier demanded 80 to 100 stealth bombers, has felt the urge to bolster their existing number of bomber squadrons with 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, stating earlier the number could “go higher”.
“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.
Such a significant number of stealth bombers of the capability of the B-21s will significantly bolster the attacking prowess of the US Air Force aircraft which already include the stealthy F-35 fighters.
However, according to Alex Hollings, writing for The Sandbox, despite all the stealth the F-35s provide, they will not possess the range to reach the target, shoot it and then return without the help of the B-21 Raiders.
“This new bomber will be able to avoid detection like no bomber ever has before it, it will have global-strike capabilities, and it would likely lead the way in a high-end conflict against a nation like China,”
“While F-35C’s might be able to avoid detection to close with Chinese missile platforms onshore, they wouldn’t have the range to reach their target, destroy it, and return to the ship… but B-21’s almost certainly could.”
With the combat plan of a probable stealth team-up of the B-21 bombers and Lockheed F-35s in shape now, Director and Program Executive Officer for the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office Randy Walden, offered an update on the B-21 program.
“The first test aircraft is being built, and it’s starting to look like an airplane. Suppliers from across the country are delivering parts that are coming together now. Aircraft programs will always have a few surprises early on, and we won’t be any different, but overall the B-21 Raider is coming along nicely,”
In addition to this, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had visited Northrop Grumman’s B-21 design and development headquarters, earlier had also issued an encouraging assessment.
“I am thoroughly impressed by the dedication and progress across the B-21 Raider team,” said Esper.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is America’s latest modern weapon, which is currently being put together for the use of the US Air Force by Northrop Grumman as part of the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program.
The bomber is expected to be in the service under the Trump or Biden administration in the period of next two years and will serve as an advanced very long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber while bringing in new dimensions of stealth, software, offensive possibilities, and nuclear deterrence to the U.S. Air Force.
Taking on its predecessor the B-2 Spirit Bomber, the tailless B-21 holds a huge resemblance to its older brother while bringing in key futuristic features along with it.
It is the first US multirole bomber that will be loaded with surveillance, communications, drone, or electronic warfare packages to carry out a variety of missions, particularly in denied environments.
Designed to carry both nuclear and conventional weapons, the B-21 stealth bomber might also be equipped with the Advanced Applications Rotary Launcher (AARL) used by the B-2 bomber, in a bid to make use of one bomb bay, which will enable it to carry eight bombs or missiles.
The Raider is being built with an “open architecture” hardware and software system as instructed by the US Air Force, who wants to ensure that in order for the bomber to adapt to different missions effectively, there is a need for easier integration of future upgrades to the bomber.
Owing to the different skill sets they bring to the US Air Force, the B-21s are said to play a key role in hitting heavily guarded targets. This is according to General Mark E. Weatherington, Commander, Eighth Air Force, and Commander, Joint-Global Strike Operations Center, who said,
“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.”