Questions & Answers

Q: What is the B-21?

A: According to the U.S. Air Force, the B-21 is a “new, high-tech long range bomber that will eventually replace the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet” and “must be able to penetrate highly contested environments, have top-end low observability characteristics, and loiter capability.”1 The B-21 Raider enable the warfighter to operate in the future high end threat environment. B-21’s capability to launch from the continental United States and reach anywhere in the world at any time will give the United States an irreplaceable advantage to face the threats in a constantly-changing global environment.

Q: Why is the B-21 named Raider?

A: At the 2016 Air Force Association’s Air, Space, and Cyber Conference, then-Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced the B-21 would be named "Raider" alongside Lt. Dick Cole, the last surviving airman from the famous Doolittle Raid. According to the Air Force, "the Doolittle Raiders are known for their surprise attack against Japan during World War II on April 18, 1942, which forced the Japanese to recall combat forces for home defense, and boosted morale among Americans and U.S. allies abroad. James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein selected the name from more than 2,000 naming submissions."

Q: What role will the aircraft play?

A: As adversaries continue to invest in and develop advanced weapons, B-21 will provide our nation with a strategic asset capable of penetrating enemy air defenses and reaching targets anywhere in the world; something approximately 90 percent of the nation’s current bomber fleet is incapable of doing.2 Though B-21 will eventually replace the U.S. Air Force’s entire bomber fleet, analysts believe the aircraft’s role will be closest to that of the B-2 Spirit, the world’s only stealth bomber. Over the past 25 years, the Air Force has relied on the B-2 to penetrate highly contested environments and strike targets which other aircraft can’t reach.

Q: Why does America need a new stealth bomber?

A: Currently only 10 percent of our nation’s bomber force is capable of penetrating advanced adversary air defenses. As our adversaries have continued investing heavily in sophisticated technologies and weapons platforms leaving them free to act maliciously or extend their reach, a new bomber is critical to deterring potential adversaries, reassuring allies, and keeping our nation safe. In a War College podcast, combat strategist and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula said, "The B-21 will provide the kind of payload, range, and penetrability that our current force of B-1s, B-52s, and to a small degree, B-2s, cannot accomplish."

Q: How many B-21s will be made?

A: The U.S. Air Force has stated plans to acquire at least 100 aircraft3. Some defense analysts believe the Air Force should plan to purchase at least 200 B-21s.

Q: Which bases will host the B-21 and when?

A: The Air Force announced in May 2018 that the B-21 Raider will operate from Dyess Air Force Base (AFB) in Abilene, Texas; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota; and Whiteman AFB, Missouri. The Air Force did not immediately state which base would receive the B-21 first, but did say the Raider would be fielded in the mid-2020s.

Q: Will the program create jobs?

A: While we cannot speak to specific job figures due to the classification of the program, it will undoubtedly support thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the country.

Q: When will the B-21 go into production? When will it be fielded?

A: Due to the program’s classified nature, the U.S. Air Force has not publicly shared a production schedule.

The U.S. Air Force has stated that it expects initial operating capability will be achieved in the mid-2020s.4

Q: What experience does Northrop Grumman have that makes it the best candidate to build the B-21?

A: Northrop Grumman is the world leader in stealth technology, and is the only company to ever develop, build, sustain and modernize a stealthy, long-range strike aircraft: the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The company also develops and implements the key, all-aspect stealth components for next-generation aircraft like the F-35, and we are also behind some of the nation’s most advanced unmanned systems, including the X-47B and Global Hawk.

Q: What does winning the B-21 program mean for Northrop Grumman?

A: The B-21 is a critical capability to maintain our nation’s security, and we are honored to continue our nearly four-decade partnership with the U.S. Air Force designing, building and maintaining advanced long-range bombers. We are fully committed to executing this program effectively and efficiently, on time and on budget. As the only company to have designed, built, delivered, and sustained a stealth bomber, we are honored to build the next one.