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Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

B-21 Raider
B-21 Raider artist rendering
U.S. Air Force artist rendering of B-21 Raider
Role Stealth Strategic bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer Northrop Grumman
Status In development
Primary user United States Air Force
Unit cost
US$564 million (FY2016, projected)[1]

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is an 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.[2][3][4]

The bomber is expected to enter service by 2025. It is to complement existing Rockwell B-1 Lancer, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit,[5] and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleets in U.S. service and eventually replace these bombers.[6][7]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Next Generation Stealth Bomber: B-21 Raider (What Do We Know About It?)


In 1988 the B-2 officially joined the ranks of the US Air Force's bomber fleet. The world's first stealth bomber, the B-2 was designed to penetrate deep into enemy territory and strike at targets no other aircraft could possibly hope to reach and survive. With three decades worth of stealth technology under its belt, America's Northrop Grumman aerospace and defense company is now set to deliver the US Air Force's next stealth bomber, the B-21. Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Infographics Show- today we're taking a look at all we know about the ultra secretive B-21. Secret barely describes the B-21. The US has traditionally been extremely protective of its stealth planes, and with good reason. In 2008 after a year long operation, Chinese hackers successfully penetrated a few American contractor's secure networks and managed to steal some design secrets of the F-35. Years later, those exact same design features showed up in China's attempt at a 5th generation fighter, the J-31. Yet while there's serious and multiple reasons to doubt China could manage to build a fleet of J-31s that could be on par with American-made F-35s, China's pilfering of F-35 secrets is not something the US is willing to repeat. Thus the B-21 Long Range Bomber program has been wrapped in so much secrecy that even American congressmen have expressed serious frustration with the program. In 2017 the late US senator John McCain railed against the Department of Defense in a hearing after even the armed services oversight committee was denied information on additional spending for the B-21 program. As one analyst jokingly put it, “Well, we know it can fly.” And fly it can- really, really high. In 2016 Northrop Grumman released a single promotional image of the B-21 Raider, revealing a flying wing design much like the B-2 stealth bomber, but unlike the B-2 the B-21 does not have the kite-like body of the B-2. From this single design feature we can ascertain that the B-21 is meant to fly much higher than the B-2, at minimum in excess of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). That's because the B-2 was originally designed to fly at this height and had a body designed without the kite-shape it has now, and closer to the B-21 Raider- but late into the development program a nervous US Air Force grew fearful of stealth technology. Not knowing how effective the technology would be in the long run, or how fast rivals could develop technology to detect a stealth bomber, the US Air Force grew cold feet at the thought of investing hundreds of billions of dollars into a next-generation bomber who's only defensive measure was stealth. Thus they forced Northrop Grumman to re-design the plane so that it could fly low to the ground if need be in order to avoid radar the way non-stealth planes do: flying low and fast. This design change necessitated an expansion of the aircraft's fuselage to accommodate more fuel required for low altitude flight and help generate lift, giving us the B-2's distinctive kite shape. But as history has shown us, the US Air Force should have had more faith in their plane. While peer competitors such as Russia and China have developed more advanced radar and remote sensing technology, the likelihood of not just tracking but getting a weapons-quality lock on an American B-2 is extremely low. The best method of tracking and engaging a stealth plane is to use an infrared targeting sensor, but these require very close proximity to the target aircraft and give an operator a field of view similar to trying to scan the entire sky while looking through a straw. Confident in new developments in radar absorbent materials and other classified stealth breakthroughs, the US Air Force has this time given the go-ahead for the B-21 Raider to remain an extremely high altitude aircraft, apparent in the plane's design and reduced fuel load (as it takes less fuel to fly at higher altitudes). While its maximum ceiling is still classified, it's a safe guess that the B-21 will fly at minimum the 60,000 feet the B-2 was always meant to reach but never did. The B-21 Raider however will be much more than just a bomber, although it will be nuclear capable as current B-2s are. The Raider is also designed to be an airborne communications node, loitering deep in denied airspace and relaying data from its own powerful sensors to other aircraft or even satellites. It will also be able to network between various American military assets, sharing data between squadrons of planes and giving every US plane in the air a complete picture of the battlespace. This means that a B-21 will be able to loiter over hostile airspace and detect enemy aircraft or ground installations, then thanks to advancements in US battlespace networking, it will even be able to direct long-range missiles fired by other American aircraft safely outside of harm's way to their targets. While the F-35 has similar capabilities, it cannot fly as high as the B-21 will, and with its very high perch a Raider will be able to see far more than an F-35. Another thing we can confirm about the B-21 Raider thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request is that each aircraft will be able to be operated manned or remotely, something no other aircraft in the world can do. Within two years of reaching initial operational capability, each B-21 in the US fleet will have the ability to be remotely piloted or even have it fly nearly completely autonomously, bringing a human into the loop to make final targeting decisions. This will allow the Raider to fly into the most hostile and denied air spaces in the world without risking American lives, threatening targets that current peer competitors might have assumed for a long time to be unassailable due to the risk involved. The US Air Force has plans to purchase 100 B-21s, and fully confident in its stealthy features it has shown no signs of getting cold feet at the last minute. This will be critical to achieving the Air Force's goal of acquiring 100 of these super-advanced aircraft, as the B-2 is notoriously expensive running up to 1.5 billion dollars a piece. This staggering cost is why the American B-2 fleet has always remained so small, at just 20 today. Yet the B-21 Raider is not expected to reach these astronomical costs given that the reason the B-2 became so expensive is because it never reached economy of scale- the US government simply did not purchase enough that Northrop Grumman could mass-produce them cheaply. With 100 B-21s on order, each individual aircraft will become cheaper to buy as more are built and manufacturing techniques are perfected. Yet the total price tag for the B-21, or what each initial plane may end up costing are kept tightly under wraps, with the Department of Defense denying even the American congress any insight into total costs, citing national security reasons. America's B-2 stealth bomber is projected to remain in service for another two decades to come, yet with Edwards Air Force Base officially becoming the test site for the B-21 just this year, it's likely that within the next few years the B-2 will be sharing the skies of the world with it's next-of-kin, the B-21 Raider Long Range Bomber. While its full potential will remain a secret, much like the B-2, its clear that the B-21 is set to become a revolutionary aircraft the likes of which the world has never seen. What do you think the B-21 may be capable of? Does the public deserve more details about something their tax dollars are paying for? Let us know in the comments . Also, be sure to watch our other video called – Why Does the B2 Stealth Bomber Cost $2 Billion? Thanks for watching, and as always, don't forget to like, share and subscribe, and as ever, see you next time.



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.[8][9] 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.[10]

At the 2016 Air Warfare Symposium, the LRS-B was formally designated "B-21", signifying the aircraft as the 21st century's first bomber.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13][14] 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.[15] Initial operating capability is expected to be reached by 2030.[11][16]

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.[17][18]

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.[19] The B-21 will be designed from the start with an open systems architecture.[20]

In April 2016, it was reported that the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command expected the required number to increase to a minimum of 100 B-21s.[21]

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.[22] 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..."[23]

Richard E. Cole, the last living Doolittle Raider (left) announces the name of the B-21 with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (right), during the Air Force Association conference on 19 September 2016
Richard E. Cole, the last living Doolittle Raider (left) announces the name of the B-21 with Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James (right), during the Air Force Association conference on 19 September 2016

On 19 September 2016, the B-21 was formally named "Raider" in honor of the Doolittle Raiders.[24] The last surviving Doolittle Raider, retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, was present at the naming ceremony at the Air Force Association conference.[25]

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.[26][27]

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.[28][29][30]

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."[31]

The program completed its critical design review (CDR) in December 2018.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Gertler, Jeremiah (17 June 2017). "Air Force B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  2. ^ Gulick, Ed (12 July 2014). "AF moves forward with future bomber". U.S. Air Force.
  3. ^ Petersen, Melody (7 February 2015). "New stealth bomber contract likely to be boon for Antelope Valley". The LA Times.
  4. ^ Osborn, Kris. "The Northrop Grumman B-21 Stealth Bomber: Simply Unstoppable?". The National Interest.
  5. ^ Jeremiah Gertler (7 June 2017). "Air Force B-21 Raider Long-Range Strike Bomber". Congressional Research Service (CRS). Retrieved 23 January 2018. B-21s would initially replace aging B-1 and B-52 bombers, and would possibly replace B-2s in the future.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "New B-21 bomber named 'Raider': U.S. Air Force". Reuters. 19 September 2016. Retrieved 23 April 2017. 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.
  7. ^ "US Air Force requests $156.3 billion in FY19, plans to retire B-1, B-2 fleets". Defense News. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 13 February 2018.
  8. ^ "USAF Global Strike chief seeks beefed-up bomber force". 26 February 2016.
  9. ^ Hillis, Amy (6 November 2015). "LRSB: (Yet Another) Tale of Two Protests". Aviation Week. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  10. ^ Weisgerber, Marcus (13 September 2015). "Here Are A Few Things the New Air Force Bomber Will Do Besides Drop Bombs". Defense One. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Air Force reveals B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber". USAF. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  12. ^ "USAF reveals Northrop's B-21 long-range strike bomber". Flight global. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  13. ^ Clark, Colin. "Coatings Plant Offers Hints On B-21 Production".
  14. ^ "USAF Global Strike chief seeks beefed-up bomber force". Flight global. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  15. ^ "US Air Force could substantially increase B-21 buy - Jane's 360".
  16. ^ Machi, Vivienne (21 June 2016). "Air Force Official: Releasing Full B-21 Contract Value 'Too Insightful' For Enemies". National defense magazine. National Defense Industrial Association. Retrieved 21 June 2016.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "USAF names seven top-tier Northrop B-21 suppliers". Flight global. 8 March 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Spirit's work on new B-21 Bomber will require new jobs". The Wichita Eagle. 2 June 2017. Archived from the original on 3 June 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2017.
  19. ^ Shalal, Andrea (10 March 2016). "U.S. F-35 chief expects savings after Pratt's B-21 bomber win". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  20. ^ Shalal, Andrea (23 March 2016). "Pentagon to move ahead with $3 billion F-35 upgrade program in 2018". Reuters. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  21. ^ Drew, James (20 April 2016). "USAF basing revised bomber count on 'minimum' of 100 B-21s". Flight Global. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  22. ^ Cohen, Zachary (5 July 2016). "New stealth bomber's cost is under the radar". CNN. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Proposed National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2017" (PDF). U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  24. ^ "The B-21 has a name: Raider". USAF. 19 September 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Last surviving Doolittle Raider rises to name Northrop B-21". Flight Global, 20 September 2016.
  26. ^ "Game Over: GAO Protest Reveals Cost Was Deciding Factor in B-21 Contest". Defense News. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  27. ^ B-412441 report. 16 February 2016.
  28. ^ "The Air Force Wants a New Fighter to Accompany Its New Stealth Bomber". 20 September 2016.
  29. ^ Clark, Colin. "B-21 Bomber Estimate By CAPE: $511M A Copy".
  30. ^ Diplomat, Robert Farley, The. "A Raider and His 'Little Buddy': Which Fighter Will Accompany the USAF's B-21?".
  31. ^ "New Northrop facility deal likely meant for B-21 stealth coating". Defense News. 1 February 2017.
  32. ^ Pappalardo, Joe (6 December 2018). "New B-21 Secret Bomber Passes Crucial Milestone". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  33. ^ "Air Force announces bases to support B-21 Raider mission". Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2019. 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.
  34. ^ "Air Force selects locations for B-21 aircraft". Ellsworth Air Force Base. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  35. ^ "Air Force announces Ellsworth AFB as first B-21 base". Retrieved 27 March 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 May 2019, at 13:46
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