The Air Force’s long-range strike bomber that will replace the antique B-52’s developed during the cold war has officially been named the B-21 Raider.
The all-black plane has a distinctive, zigzagging shape and a low profile designed to make it hard to spot on radar.
It is ‘projected to enter service in the mid-2020s, building to a fleet of 100 aircraft.’
The name was ultimately selected by James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein after a panel composed of staff from AFGSC and Headquarters Air Force determined the top-ranked selections from more than 2,100 unique naming submissions.
‘The B-21 is intended to operate in both conventional and nuclear roles, with the capability of penetrating and surviving in advanced air defense environments,’ The Air Force said.
‘It will be capable of operation by an onboard crew or piloted remotely.’
Earlier this year the US Air Force unveiled the first image of its new stealth bomber when Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James provided the world with the first glimpse of the project using an artist’s rendering.
The rendering bears more than a passing resemblance to the Air Force’s B-2 bomber, which is also made by Northrop Grumman.
However the new document reveals it may not be that accurate.
‘The released rendering shows a flying-wing design not dissimilar to the B-2, although simpler in shape.
‘It resembles early proposed designs that later evolved into the B-2.’
The report also outlines the craft,s unmanned capabilities, saying ‘Initial B-21s will be manned, with unmanned operation possible several years after initial operational capability (IOC).’
Nuclear qualification will also take two years or so after IOC, the report says.
It is designed to be launch from the continental US and deliver airstrikes on any location in the world.
At an earlier event in Orlando, James revealed the plane – previously known as the Long Range Strike Bomber – would be called the B-21 until a new name has been agreed on, and she invited air crews to help.
The designation B-21 recognises the aircraft as the military’s first bomber of the 21st century.
‘This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and (their) voice is important to this process,’ James told the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium.
The program has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception for fear of revealing military secrets to potential enemies.
The military also wanted to avoid giving the losing bidders any details before their formal protest was rejected last week.
The Air Force wants 100 of the warplanes, which will replace the ageing B-52s and the B-1 bombers that first saw action in the 1980s.
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