The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is a proposed American heavy bomber under development by Northrop Grumman. As part of the Long Range Strike Bomber program (LRS-B), it is to be a very long-range, stealth strategic bomber for the United States Air Force capable of delivering conventional and thermonuclear weapons.
The bomber is expected to enter service by 2025. It is to complement existing Rockwell B-1 Lancer, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleets in U.S. service and eventually replace these bombers.
|U.S. Air Force artist rendering of B-21 Raider|
|Role||Stealth Strategic bomber|
|National origin||United States|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
A request for proposal to develop the aircraft was issued in July 2014. The Air Force initial plans were to acquire 80 to 100 LRS-B aircraft at a cost of $550 million per unit (2010) and envisions some 175 to 200 to be in service eventually. A development contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman in October 2015. A media report states that the bomber could also be used as an intelligence gatherer, battle manager, and interceptor aircraft.
At the 2016 Air Warfare Symposium, the LRS-B was formally designated "B-21", signifying the aircraft as the 21st century's first bomber. Then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James stated that the B-21 is a fifth-generation global precision attack platform that will give the United States networked sensor-shoot capability, thus holding targets at risk. The head of the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command expects that 100 B-21 bombers will be the minimum ordered and envisions some 175–200 bombers in service. Two internal USAF studies suggest that Air Force could increase its B-21 purchase from between 80 and 100 to as many as 145 aircraft. Initial operating capability is expected to be reached by 2030.
In March 2016, the USAF announced seven tier-one suppliers for the program: Pratt & Whitney; BAE Systems of Nashua, New Hampshire; Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, Kansas; Orbital ATK of Clearfield, Utah and Dayton, Ohio; Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; GKN Aerospace of St Louis, Missouri; and Janicki Industries of Sedro-Woolley, Washington.
The F-35 program manager Chris Bogdan stated that the commonality of the B-21's engines should reduce the cost of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. The B-21 will be designed from the start with an open systems architecture.
In July 2016, the U.S. Air Force stated they would not release the estimated cost for the B-21 contract with Northrop Grumman. The Air Force argued releasing the cost would reveal too much information about the classified project to potential adversaries. The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services also voted to not publicly release the program's cost, restricting the information to congressional defense committees over the objections of a bipartisan group of legislators led by the committee's chairman, Senator John McCain of Arizona. Senator McCain's proposed revisions to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2017 would have reduced authorization for the B-21 program by $302 million "due to a lower than expected contract award value", while requiring "strict... program baseline and cost control thresholds", "quarterly program performance reports", and "disclosure of the engineering and manufacturing development total contract award value..."
On 19 September 2016, the B-21 was formally named "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders. The then-remaining survivor of the Doolittle Raiders, retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, was present at the naming ceremony at the Air Force Association conference.
The Government Accountability Office released a report on 25 October 2016 that sustained the Air Force's decision to award the LRS-B contract to Northrop Grumman. Cost was revealed to be the deciding factor in selecting Northrop Grumman over the Boeing and Lockheed Martin team.
The Air Force is planning to acquire a new long-range fighter, known as "Penetrating Counter-Air", that would accompany the B-21 Raider deep into enemy territory. The new fighter, of which few details are known, would help the bomber survive enemy air defenses.
Final assembly of the B-21 is expected to take place at United States Air Force Plant 42 near Palmdale, California, at the same facility used during the 1980s and 1990s for Northrop B-2 production. Northrop Grumman was awarded a $35.8 million contract modification for a large coatings facility set to be completed in 2019. Journalists touring Plant 42 reported, "while Northrop would not specify that they planned to produce the B-21 at that location, officials were all but winking and nodding at the subject."
The program completed its critical design review (CDR) in December 2018.
Maintenance and sustainment of the B-21 will be coordinated by Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, while Edwards Air Force Base, California will lead testing and evaluation. The B-21 is expected to operate out of bases currently servicing heavy bombers, such as Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. On 27 March 2019, Ellsworth Air Force Base was selected as the Air Force Base to host the first operational B-21 Raider bomber unit and the first formal training unit.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
B-21s would initially replace aging B-1 and B-52 bombers, and would possibly replace B-2s in the future.
The stealth B-21, the first new U.S. bomber of the 21st century, is part of an effort to replace the Air Force's aging B-52 and B-1 bombers, though it is not slated to be ready for combat use before 2025.
The Air Force has selected Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to coordinate maintenance and sustainment of the B-21 Raider and Edwards AFB, California, to lead testing and evaluation of the next generation long-range strike bomber.
The 420th Flight Test Flight is an inactive United States Air Force Reserve squadron. It was last assigned to the 413th Flight Test Group of Air Force Reserve Command at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, Arizona, where it was inactivated on 31 October 2007.
The squadron was first activated as the 420th Night Fighter Squadron, one of the first dedicated night fighter operational training squadrons of the Air Force. It trained replacement night fighter pilots who were then deployed overseas into combat until its inactivation in March 1944 due to a re-alignment of training unit designations.It was reactivated as the 420th Air Refueling Squadron under Tactical Air Command in 1954 and moved to England, where it served under the United States Air Forces Europe. It was inactivated when Strategic Air Command assumed the role of single manager for USAF air refueling. In 1985 the night fighter and refueling squadrons were consolidated into a single unit.
The 6520th Test Squadron was organized in 1989 by Air Force Systems Command. In 1992, as the USAF eliminated Major Command controlled (MAJCON) units, the 6520th was consolidated with the 420th and re-designated as the 420th Flight Test Squadron. The squadron was inactivated as an active-duty unit in 1997, but was activated four years later in the Air Force Reserve Command as the 420th Flight Test Flight.Doolittle Raid
The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid (Saturday 18 April 1942), was an air raid by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places on Honshu during World War II. It was the first air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago. It demonstrated that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to American air attack, served as retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and provided an important boost to American morale. The raid was planned, led by, and named after Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle of the United States Army Air Forces.
Sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium bombers were launched without fighter escort from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Hornet deep in the Western Pacific Ocean, each with a crew of five men. The plan called for them to bomb military targets in Japan, and to continue westward to land in China. Landing a medium bomber on Hornet was impossible. The bombing raid killed about 50 people, including civilians, and injured 400. Fifteen aircraft reached China, but all crashed, while the 16th landed at Vladivostok in the Soviet Union. Of the 80 crew members, 77 initially survived the mission. Eight airmen were captured by the Japanese Army in China; three were later executed. The B-25 that landed in the Soviet Union was confiscated and its crew interned for more than a year before being allowed to "escape" via Soviet-occupied Iran with the help of the NKVD. Fourteen complete crews of five, except for one crewman who was killed in action, returned either to the United States, or to American forces.After the raid, the Japanese Army conducted a massive sweep through the eastern coastal provinces of China, in an operation now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi campaign, searching for the surviving American airmen and inflicting retribution on the Chinese who aided them, in an effort to prevent this part of China from being used again for an attack on Japan.
The raid caused negligible material damage to Japan, but it had major psychological effects. In the United States, it raised morale. In Japan, it raised doubt about the ability of military leaders to defend the home islands, but the bombing and strafing of civilians also steeled the resolve to gain retribution and was exploited for propaganda purposes. It also pushed forward Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's plans to attack Midway Island in the Central Pacific—an attack that turned into a decisive strategic defeat of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) by the U.S. Navy in the Battle of Midway. The consequences were most severely felt in China, where Japanese reprisals caused the deaths of 250,000 civilians and 70,000 soldiers.Doolittle, who initially believed that the loss of all his aircraft would lead to his court-martial, received the Medal of Honor and was promoted two ranks to brigadier general.Future military aircraft of the United States
Future military aircraft of the United States is a list of military aircraft that are being developed for use by the United States military in the near future.
For aircraft in-service see List of active United States military aircraft.Heavy bomber
Heavy bombers are bomber aircraft capable of delivering the largest payload of air-to-ground weaponry (usually bombs) and longest range of their era. Archetypal heavy bombers have therefore usually been among the largest and most powerful military aircraft at any point in time. In the second half of the 20th century, heavy bombers were largely superseded by strategic bombers, which were often smaller in size, but were capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Because of advances in aircraft design and engineering — especially in powerplants and aerodynamics — the size of payloads carried by heavy bombers have increased at rates greater than increases in the size of their airframes. The largest bombers of World War I, the four engine aircraft built by the Zeppelin-Staaken company in Germany, could carry a payload of up to 4,400 pounds (2,000 kg) of bombs. By the middle of World War II even a single-engine fighter-bomber could carry a 2,000-pound (910 kg) bomb load, and such aircraft were taking over from light and medium bombers in the tactical bombing role. Advancements in four-engine aircraft design enabled heavy bombers to carry even larger payloads to targets thousands of kilometres away. For instance, the Avro Lancaster (introduced in 1942) routinely delivered payloads of 14,000 pounds (6,400 kg) (and sometimes up to 22,000 lb/10,000 kg) and had a range of 2,530 miles (4,070 km). The B-29 (1944) delivered payloads in excess of 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) and had a range of 3,250 miles (5,230 km). By the early 1960s, the jet-powered Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, travelling at speeds of up to 650 miles per hour (1,050 km/h) (i.e., more than double that of a Lancaster), could deliver a payload of 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg), over a combat radius of 4,480 miles (7,210 km).
During World War II, mass production techniques made available large, long-range heavy bombers in such quantities as to allow strategic bombing campaigns to be developed and employed. This culminated in August 1945, when B-29s of the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, contributing significantly to the end of hostilities.
The arrival of nuclear weapons and guided missiles permanently changed the nature of military aviation and strategy. After the 1950s intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic missile submarines began to supersede heavy bombers in the strategic nuclear role. Along with the emergence of more accurate precision-guided munitions ("smart bombs") and nuclear-armed missiles, which could be carried and delivered by smaller aircraft, these technological advancements eclipsed the heavy bomber's once-central role in strategic warfare by the late 20th century. Heavy bombers have, nevertheless, been used to deliver conventional weapons in several regional conflicts since World War II (e.g., B-52s in the Vietnam War).
Heavy bombers are now operated only by the air forces of the United States, Russia and China. They serve in both strategic and tactical bombing roles.List of aircraft (N)
This is a list of aircraft in alphabetical order beginning with 'N'.List of flying wings
A flying wing aircraft is one which has no distinct fuselage or tail. The crew, engines and equipment are housed inside a thick wing, typically showing small nacelles, blisters and other housings.Next-Generation Bomber
The Next-Generation Bomber (NGB; unofficially called 2018 Bomber) was a program to develop a new medium bomber for the United States Air Force. The NGB was initially projected to enter service around 2018 as a stealthy, subsonic, medium-range, medium payload bomber to supplement and possibly—to a limited degree—replace the U.S. Air Force's aging bomber fleet (B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer). The NGB program was superseded by the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) heavy bomber program.Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
The Northrop (later Northrop Grumman) B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an American heavy strategic bomber, featuring low observable stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses; it is a flying wing design with a crew of two. The bomber can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, such as up to eighty 500-pound class (230 kg) Mk 82 JDAM Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or sixteen 2,400-pound (1,100 kg) B83 nuclear bombs. The B-2 is the only acknowledged aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.
Development started under the "Advanced Technology Bomber" (ATB) project during the Carter administration; its expected performance was one of the President's reasons for the cancellation of the Mach 2 capable B-1A bomber. The ATB project continued during the Reagan administration, but worries about delays in its introduction led to the reinstatement of the B-1 program. Program costs rose throughout development. Designed and manufactured by Northrop, later Northrop Grumman, the cost of each aircraft averaged US$737 million (in 1997 dollars). Total procurement costs averaged $929 million per aircraft, which includes spare parts, equipment, retrofitting, and software support. The total program cost, which included development, engineering and testing, averaged $2.1 billion per aircraft in 1997.Because of its considerable capital and operating costs, the project was controversial in the U.S. Congress. The winding-down of the Cold War in the latter portion of the 1980s dramatically reduced the need for the aircraft, which was designed with the intention of penetrating Soviet airspace and attacking high-value targets. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Congress slashed plans to purchase 132 bombers to 21. In 2008, a B-2 was destroyed in a crash shortly after takeoff, though the crew ejected safely. Twenty B-2s are in service with the United States Air Force, which plans to operate them until 2032.The B-2 is capable of all-altitude attack missions up to 50,000 feet (15,000 m), with a range of more than 6,000 nautical miles (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) on internal fuel and over 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) with one midair refueling. It entered service in 1997 as the second aircraft designed to have advanced stealth technology after the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft. Though designed originally as primarily a nuclear bomber, the B-2 was first used in combat dropping conventional, non-nuclear ordnance in the Kosovo War in 1999. It later served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.Northrop YB-35
The Northrop XB-35 and YB-35 were experimental heavy bomber aircraft developed by the Northrop Corporation for the United States Army Air Forces during and shortly after World War II. The airplane used the radical and potentially very efficient flying wing design, in which the tail section and fuselage are eliminated and all payload is carried in a thick wing. Only prototype and pre-production aircraft were built, although interest remained strong enough to warrant further development of the design as a jet bomber, under the designation YB-49.Northrop YB-49
The Northrop YB-49 was a prototype jet-powered heavy bomber developed by Northrop Corporation shortly after World War II for service with the U.S. Air Force. The YB-49 featured a flying wing design and was a turbojet-powered development of the earlier, piston-engined Northrop XB-35 and YB-35. The two YB-49s actually built were both converted YB-35 test aircraft.
The YB-49 never entered production, being passed over in favor of the more conventional Convair B-36 piston-driven design. Design work performed in the development of the YB-35 and YB-49 nonetheless proved to be valuable to Northrop decades later in the eventual development of the B-2 stealth bomber, which entered service in the early 1990s.RRS Sir David Attenborough
RRS Sir David Attenborough is a research vessel owned by the Natural Environment Research Council, to be operated by the British Antarctic Survey for the purposes of both research and logistic support. In this, the ship is intended to replace a pair of existing vessels, RRS James Clark Ross and RRS Ernest Shackleton. The vessel is named after broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough.Rockwell B-1 Lancer
The Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force. It is commonly called the "Bone" (from "B-One"). It is one of three strategic bombers in the U.S. Air Force fleet as of 2018, the other two being the B-2 Spirit and the B-52 Stratofortress.
The B-1 was first envisioned in the 1960s as a platform that would combine the Mach 2 speed of the B-58 Hustler with the range and payload of the B-52, and was meant to ultimately replace both bombers. After a long series of studies, Rockwell International (now part of Boeing) won the design contest for what emerged as the B-1A. This version had a top speed of Mach 2.2 at high altitude and the capability of flying for long distances at Mach 0.85 at very low altitudes. The combination of the high cost of the aircraft, the introduction of the AGM-86 cruise missile that flew the same basic profile, and early work on the stealth bomber all significantly affected the need for the B-1. This led to the program being canceled in 1977, after the B-1A prototypes had been built.
The program was restarted in 1981, largely as an interim measure due to delays in the B-2 stealth bomber program, with the B-2 eventually reaching initial operational capability in 1997. This led to a redesign as the B-1B, which differed from the B-1A by having a lower top speed at high altitude of Mach 1.25, but improved low-altitude performance of Mach 0.96. The electronics were also extensively improved during the redesign, and the airframe was improved to allow takeoff with the maximum possible fuel and weapons load. The B-1B began deliveries in 1986 and formally entered service with Strategic Air Command (SAC) as a nuclear bomber in that same year. By 1988, all 100 aircraft had been delivered.
In the early 1990s, following the Gulf War and concurrent with the disestablishment of SAC and its reassignment to the newly formed Air Combat Command, the B-1B was converted to conventional bombing use. It first served in combat during Operation Desert Fox in 1998 and again during the NATO action in Kosovo the following year. The B-1B has supported U.S. and NATO military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Air Force had 66 B-1Bs in service as of September 2012. The B-1B is expected to continue to serve into the 2030s, with the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider to begin replacing the B-1B after 2025. The B-1s in inventory are planned to be retired by 2036.Strategic bomber
A strategic bomber is a medium to long range penetration bomber aircraft designed to drop large amounts of air-to-ground weaponry onto a distant target for the purposes of debilitating the enemy's capacity to wage war. Unlike tactical bombers, penetrators, fighter-bombers, and attack aircraft, which are used in air interdiction operations to attack enemy combatants and military equipment, strategic bombers are designed to fly into enemy territory to destroy strategic targets (e.g., infrastructure, logistics, military installations, factories, and cities). In addition to strategic bombing, strategic bombers can be used for tactical missions. There are currently only two countries that operate strategic bombers: the United States and Russia.The modern strategic bomber role appeared after strategic bombing was widely employed, and atomic bombs were first used in combat during World War II. Nuclear strike missions (i.e., delivering nuclear-armed missiles or bombs) can potentially be carried out by most modern fighter-bombers and strike fighters, even at intercontinental range, with the use of aerial refueling, so any nation possessing this combination of equipment and techniques theoretically has such capability. Primary delivery aircraft for a modern strategic bombing mission need not always necessarily be a heavy bomber type, and any modern aircraft capable of nuclear strikes at long range is equally able to carry out tactical missions with conventional weapons. An example is France's Mirage IV, a small strategic bomber replaced in service by the ASMP-equipped Mirage 2000N fighter-bomber and Rafale multirole fighter.Tupolev PAK DA
The Tupolev PAK DA or PAK DA (Russian: ПАК ДА, short for: Перспективный авиационный комплекс дальней авиации, romanized: Perspektivnyi aviatsionnyi kompleks dal'ney aviatsii, lit. ''Prospective aviation complex for long-range aviation''), factory designation Izdeliye 80, is a next-generation stealth strategic bomber being developed by Tupolev for the Russian Air Force. The PAK DA is set to complement and eventually replace older variants, namely the Tupolev Tu-95 and Tupolev Tu-160, in Russia's Air Force service. The first flight is scheduled for 2025–2026 with serial production to follow in 2028–2029.Technical parameters of the aircraft should include subsonic speed, 12,000 km operational range and possibility to carry both conventional and nuclear payloads up to 30 tons.United States Air Force Plant 42
United States Air Force Plant 42 (IATA: PMD, ICAO: KPMD, FAA LID: PMD) is a classified United States Government aircraft manufacturing plant, used by the United States Air Force. It is also used by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Plant 42 and Palmdale Regional Airport (PMD) are separate facilities that share a common runway at the site. The facility is located in the Antelope Valley, approximately 60 miles (97 km) from downtown Los Angeles.Xian H-20
The Xian H-20 (Chinese: 轰-20; pinyin: Hōng-20; alternatively Xian H-X) is a subsonic stealth bomber design of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, due to enter service in the future. It is referred to as a strategic project by the People's Liberation Army.The United States expects the H-20 to be able to carry nuclear weapons. The aircraft may enter service around 2025.