PENNINGTON COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — The B-21 Raider is set to be the latest weapon in the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Built by defense contractor and weapons manufacturer Northrop Grumman (NG), the company lauds the new aircraft, saying it “will provide the United States with a strategic asset capable of penetrating enemy air defenses and reaching targets anywhere in the world.”
The B-21 is a long-range stealth bomber that NG says is “designed to be long-range, highly survivable and capable of carrying a mix of conventional and nuclear ordnance.” The bomber will be a new element in the U.S. ‘nuclear triad,’ the name for the combination of the nation’s land, air and sea based nuclear weapons programs.
The air wing of the triad is currently composed of 20 B-2 Spirit bombers and 58 active B-52H Stratofortress bombers, with an additional 18 in reserve. Both of these crafts are capable of carrying and deploying both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons.
Official details of the B-21, still under development at NG’s manufacturing facility in Palmdale, CA, are scarce. According to the company, “only 10 percent of our nation’s bomber force is capable of penetrating advanced adversary air defenses.” They say the B-21 is being built to fill that role.
Ellsworth AFB announced in 2019 that it had been selected as the preferred location for the first operational B-21 Raider bomber and the formal training unit.
According to Air Force Magazine, the United States Air Force (USAF) is expected to buy around 100 of the B-21 for a cost of around $651.7 million as of 2019, which breaks down to a per unit cost of about $6,517,000 per plane. That’s compared to $84 million for a B-52H and a staggering $1.157 billion for a B-2, according to the USAF.
The name ‘Raider’ is given to the B-21 in honor of the members of the Doolittle Raid, a sneak bombing of Japan during World War 2. According to NG, the USAF has slated the first deliveries of the craft in the mid-2020s.