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  • B-21 Raider Stealth bomber

    What we know about new US B-21 stealth bomber, first in 30 years

    The next-generation stealth bomber is expected to be able to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance as well as carry out attacks.

    For the first time in more than 30 years, the United States Air Force is unveiling a new stealth bomber. The B-21 Raider is expected to be shown to the world Friday.

    The next-generation stealthy long-range strategic bomber is designed to eventually replace the ageing B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft and become the backbone of the US Air Force’s bomber fleet.

    Remarkably for a large weapons programme, the B-21 has come in on time and reportedly within the $25.1bn budget the US Air Force allocated it in 2010. Northrop Grumman, which has been developing the bomber, appears to have learned from lessons that befell previous high-profile programmes like the F-35 and the B-2 bombers.

    The 34-year-old B-2 Spirit was a generation ahead of its time. The advanced materials coating the aircraft, combined with the shape of the airframe and engine inlets, meant its radar signature was minute, rendering it virtually “invisible” to radar.

    This allowed the aircraft to conduct long-range strike missions in highly-defended areas with a good chance of surviving the mission, something other bombers, like the B-1 and the venerable B-52 would have little chance of succeeding at.

    Undetected, the B-2 can already destroy high-value targets deep in enemy territory with little to no warning.

    So what makes its successor, the B-21, so special?

    More of the same?

    The programme has been highly classified and Northrop Grumman has released few details about the project, but some information has trickled out in published reports.

    The B-21 Raider clearly draws a lot of its designs from its predecessor, such as the flying wing concept with its engines embedded and configured to efficiently reduce its radar signature.

    The airframe is slightly smaller than the B-2: its payload – the amount of ordinance, bombs and missiles it can carry – is almost halved.

    It is not particularly fast – designed to fly at high subsonic speeds – and it is not the quantum leap the B-2 stealth bomber was when it was first introduced in 1988.

    It is, however, significantly cheaper, both to buy and maintain. The B-2 was horrendously expensive to keep airworthy and the B-21 will greatly lower the toll in money and man-hours needed in its upkeep. Cheaper planes are more likely to be bought in higher numbers. A hundred aircraft have initially been slated for production with that figure likely to rise if costs can be kept down.

    What’s new?

    While stealth is a chief attribute, it is by no means the B-21’s only quality. What the Air Force, and the US military as a whole, have been working to build is a powerful, distributed network of long-range sensors and strike platforms that transmit and share vast amounts of data about the enemy they are fighting.

    The B-21 fits into this new strategy network perfectly, able to gather intelligence about a potential enemy or area and to carry out a strike. In other words, it can gather and relay information to friendly aircraft, satellites, radars and more, and it is also an offensive weapon, able to destroy targets within its range.

    Long-range strikes may be its primary mission but the B-21 bomber will be able to gather and share intelligence, helping direct its own fleet of weapons that can in turn destroy multiple targets. In short, its “brain” is its most valuable asset and the use of open-source software will allow the aircraft to be easily upgraded – ensuring it remains flexible and cutting-edge while seriously extending its useful life.

    The aircraft can be flown in a manned and unmanned configuration and its internal weapons bays will allow it to carry the latest long-range stealth missiles like the JASSM (Joint Air to Surface Stand-off Missile) as well as other conventional and nuclear payloads.

    Stealth under threat?

    These attributes are all vital if the aircraft is going to survive. There are already reports that advances in quantum radar may allow stealth aircraft to be detected. China claims to have fielded a radar its military says can detect the stealthiest aircraft, an assertion rejected by Western experts.

    Still, this is an area of intense focus especially given the obvious military applications. For decades, stealth aircraft have dominated the skies, so with a quantum radar that actually worked, the significant advantages US stealth aircraft have enjoyed would disappear overnight. Normally unseen and invulnerable aircraft could be detected and shot down.

    Even without stealth, the B-21s’ other attributes are what makes it such a deadly aircraft. It can absorb information at a far greater rate than its rivals – meaning it will know where the enemy is and where its own assets are – fitting into a vast framework of deadly platforms that will be able to destroy their targets from a long way off.

    This ability to gather, absorb and assimilate vast amounts of data, the B-21’s extended means to keep being updated, and its every sensor being the latest and most powerful is what will make the Raider the potent weapon it has been designed to be.

    The B-21’s rollout on Friday means the start of years of development, tweaking, refining and fine-tuning as the bomber undergoes constant tests, first on the ground and then in the air under a vast variety of conditions (before it will be finally inducted into the US Air Force).

    But it is already under way to being one of the weapons any potential adversary will fear most as there would be little to no warning of its arrival deep inside an enemy’s air space. It is this deterrent factor that will be part of the thought calculus of any near competitor when considering military action.

    China, having seen the United Stated field stealth bombers for decades, has now sped up research into building its own, the Xian H-20 stealth deep-penetration bomber. The B-21 Raider will have its challengers.

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    Might have missed any past discussion about the B-21 but apparently it's being unveiled tomorrow. Be interesting to see what it has instore.
    Last edited by statquo; 02 Dec 22,, 02:34.

  • #2
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    “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”

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    • #3
      Another reason we need the B-21. The B-2 entered squadron service over 30 years ago


      Air Force Grounds Entire B-2 Fleet After Emergency Landing | Military.com

      Air Force Grounds Entire B-2 Fleet After Emergency Landing


      WASHINGTON — The Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of B-2 stealth bombers following an emergency landing and fire earlier this month, and none of the strategic aircraft will perform flyovers at this years' college bowl games.

      A bomber experienced an in-flight malfunction on Dec. 10, forcing it to make an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where it caught fire. The fire was extinguished and there were no injuries.

      The standdown is significant in that there are fewer than 20 stealth bombers in the entire fleet and the aircraft provides, along with the B-52 Stratofortress, the air leg of the nation's nuclear triad. The B-2 has been regularly deployed to the Indo-Pacific and more recently to Europe as a show of force. During the standdown the entire fleet will be inspected, 509th Bomb Wing spokeswoman Air Force Master Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio said.

      The B-2 was scheduled to fly over the 2023 Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game but it will be replaced by the B-1 Lancer, the 509th Bomb Wing said in a statement.

      The B-2 stealth bomber took its first flight in 1989 and its flying-wing design formed the base of its eventual replacement, the B-21 Raider, which was introduced this month. The B-21 is scheduled to make its first flight next year.

      In Sept. 2021 another B-2 at Whiteman had to make an emergency landing after the hydraulics system failed, resulting in the bomber's landing gear collapsing. The bomber's left wing dragged for about a mile before the aircraft came to a halt, resulting in at least $10 million in damage to the aircraft.
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain

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      • #4
        B-21 Raider Has Flown For The First Time


        In one of the most significant airpower developments in recent years, the U.S. Air Force’s new B-21 Raider — the world’s second stealth bomber, at least that we know about — has taken to the air. A video taken from outside the Air Force’s storied Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, early this morning, showed the B-21, with its landing gear down, accompanied by an F-16 chase plane. Other high resolution photos have followed.
        “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”

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        • #5
          I know it's all 'interneted' and everything but what's the payload? In the end its all about how much bang you can deliver on time and on target per dollar spent. It would be very disappointing if its turns out to be just a hugely expensive way of delivering less 'boom' than an F-16 could manage. (I think I'm starting to channel my inner Perun BTW )
          If you are emotionally invested in 'believing' something is true you have lost the ability to tell if it is true.

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          • #6
            Pentagon OKs B-21 for low-rate production after successful tests


            WASHINGTON — The B-21 Raider is now in production, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief said Monday evening.

            William LaPlante, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said in a statement to reporters that he approved low-rate production for the Northrop Grumman-made stealth bomber last fall after observing the results of its ground and flight tests. LaPlante also said the B-21 team’s “mature plans for manufacturing” contributed to his decision to move forward on production.

            “One of the key attributes of this program has been designing for production from the start — and at scale — to provide a credible deterrent to adversaries,” LaPlante said. “If you don’t produce and field to warfighters at scale, the capability doesn’t really matter.”

            The Air Force plans to start fielding a fleet of at least 100 B-21 Raiders, with the first entering service in the mid-2020s. The Raider is planned to eventually replace the aging B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit sometime in the 2030s, and make up part of a planned two-bomber fleet along with 76 upgraded B-52J Stratofortresses.

            The Raider, which has been referred to as a sixth-generation bomber, is designed to use its stealth capabilities to carry out penetrating deep strike missions against advanced adversaries, and carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.

            The Air Force and Northrop Grumman rolled out the first B-21 in a heavily publicized ceremony at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, in December 2022. Testing on that initial B-21, nicknamed Cerberus, continued at Plant 42 throughout much of 2023 until it carried out its first flight, to Edwards Air Force Base in California, in November.

            Flight testing of the B-21 has continued at Edwards since then, including taxiing, ground tests and flying operations. The Air Force Test Center and the 412th Test Wing have led the B-21′s test campaign.

            Northrop Grumman has built or is in the process of building at least six test B-21s, including the first one.

            The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is in charge of the B-21′s acquisition program, and set an unusual strategy that includes building those test aircraft as close to a production model as possible. This means that the test B-21s are built using the same manufacturing processes and tooling as production bombers. A defense official said in the Pentagon’s statement this approach, which differs from the usual method of flight prototyping, allowed production to start more quickly than usual.

            The defense official said the Air Force has worked with Northrop Grumman to create a “digital ecosystem” for the B-21 throughout its lifecycle.

            “The engineering and manufacturing data used on the production line will be delivered with the aircraft and combined with modern collaboration and maintenance tools to make the B-21 affordable to buy, fly and sustain at scale,” the official said.

            The B-21 program is expected to cost $203 billion over 30 years, and each bomber has an expected average procurement cost of $692 million.
            _______
            “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”

            Comment


            • #7
              Beat me to it TH!

              It will replace the B-1 & B-2.

              Meanwhile, the BUFF, whose first flight was in in 1952...72 years ago...will continue in service til the 2050s! The last one was built in 1962!
              “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
              Mark Twain

              Comment


              • #8
                Can you imagine driving cross country today in a 1952 Chevrolet Deluxe?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
                  Beat me to it TH!

                  It will replace the B-1 & B-2.

                  Meanwhile, the BUFF, whose first flight was in in 1952...72 years ago...will continue in service til the 2050s! The last one was built in 1962!
                  I lost track... is the much talked about engine replacement going forward?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jlvfr View Post

                    I lost track... is the much talked about engine replacement going forward?
                    Sure is.
                    “He was the most prodigious personification of all human inferiorities. He was an utterly incapable, unadapted, irresponsible, psychopathic personality, full of empty, infantile fantasies, but cursed with the keen intuition of a rat or a guttersnipe. He represented the shadow, the inferior part of everybody’s personality, in an overwhelming degree, and this was another reason why they fell for him.”

                    Comment

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