B-21 Raider Frequently Asked Questions
What is the B-21?
The B-21 Raider is a new high-tech stealth bomber being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging bomber fleet.
Designed to be long-range, highly survivable and capable of carrying a mix of conventional and nuclear ordinance, the B-21 will join the nuclear triad as a visible and flexible nuclear deterrent; supporting national security objectives and assuring our nation’s allies and partners.
Why is the B-21 named Raider?
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. Col. 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.”
What role will the aircraft play?
As adversaries continue to invest in and develop advanced weapons, the B-21 Raider will provide the United States 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.
Why does America need a new stealth bomber?
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 that leave 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.”
How many B-21s will be made?
The U.S. Air Force has stated plans to acquire at least 100 aircraft. Some defense analysts believe that the Air Force should plan to purchase at least 200 B-21s.
Which bases will host the B-21 and when?
The U.S. Air Force identified Ellsworth Air Force Base (AFB), South Dakota; Dyess AFB, Texas; and Whiteman AFB, Missouri as potential hosts for the B-21 Raider. Ellsworth AFB has been selected as the preferred basing location for the first B-21 main operating base and formal training unit, and Dyess AFB as the alternate. A final decision is expected in 2021 following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.
The Air Force has selected Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, to coordinate maintenance and sustainment of the B-21 Raider, and Edwards AFB, California, to lead testing and evaluation of the aircraft.
The Air Force has stated it expects first aircraft deliveries in mid-2020s.
Will the program create jobs?
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.
When will the B-21 go into production? When will it be fielded?
Due to the program's classified nature, the U.S. Air Force has not publicly shared a production schedule. The Air Force has stated that the initial test aircraft is currently in production at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif. The Air Force has stated it expects first aircraft deliveries in mid-2020s.
What experience does Northrop Grumman have that makes it the best candidate to build the B-21?
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 such as the F-35, and we are also behind some of the nation's most advanced unmanned systems, including the X-47B and Global Hawk.
What does winning the B-21 program mean for Northrop Grumman?
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.