In 2009, approximately 35 years without getting a strategic bomber, the US Air Force built the Long Range Strike Bomber program to build the most technologically advanced bomber.
This ambitious program took almost a decade, and the new stealth bomber was finally unveiled in December 2022.
Long Range Strike Bomber Program
In 2009, the United States Air Force launched the Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B program to build a long-range strategic bomber.
The goal was to build a definitive replacement for the B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit bomber, and the B-52 Stratofortress. Both funding and development were slow, but they eventually accelerated in 20215 after increased threats from China, North Korea, and Russia.
Northrop Grumman Rises
A contract was eventually awarded to Grumman in October 2015 to develop a strategic bomber that could be quickly developed with existing technologies, optionally manned, compatible with a number of systems, and carrying a considerable payload.
Thus, the B-21 Raider was born. Grumman noted that the new stealth bomber would serve the nation’s strategic deterrence strategy. Particular emphasis was given to the sustainment, affordability, and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques of the Raider. Along with this, both Grumman and the Air Force also showed the migration of B-21 ground systems to a cloud environment.
First 21st Century Bomber
On December 2, 2022, the US Air Force and Northrop Grumman Corporation officially unveiled the Raider at the US Air Force’s advanced aircraft research and development facility in Palmdale, California.
The Raider is the first new American strategic bomber in over 35 years and the world’s sixth-generation aircraft.
During the event, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III remarked that “Even the most sophisticated air-defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.” He also remarked that it was the first 2st-century bomber that was the product of over 30 years of advance in low observable technology.
While no specific details were given about the model, the Air Force clarified that more than 50 years of advances in low-observable technology went to the advancement of the bomber.
The Department of Defense emphasized that the plane will be able to conduct operations ranging from intelligence gathering, battle management, and seamless integration with equipment used by the United States and its allies. It will also operate in crewed or uncrewed configurations as part of its open systems architecture. Finally, the Raider can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The Department of Defense and Grumman announced that the B-21 is one of the cheapest bombers ever produced in US history, coming at over 692 million per unit. Meanwhile, it was revealed by TIME Magazine that the program will cost US taxpayers over $203 billion during the next 30 years.
The Chief Executive of Northrop Grumman Kathy Warden that the government is committed to buying at least 200 Raiders. Furthermore, she said that the first flight of the Raider is still scheduled for this year following its impressive debut last December 2022.