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    Home未分类Stealth and Strategy: The B-21 Raider's Role in Future Air Superiority

    Stealth and Strategy: The B-21 Raider’s Role in Future Air Superiority

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    The B-21 Raider is poised to redefine strategic bombing for the U.S. Air Force, with 132 planned units promising unmatched capabilities at a cost intended to avoid the financial pitfalls of its predecessors.

    Gen. CQ Brown Jr highlighted the B-21 Raider as an example of successful design implementation for the Air Force under “Action Order D” of his goal to Accelerate Change. Image 2 of 2” by U.S. Air Force is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

    The B-21’s significance lies in its advanced technology, which the Air Force is banking on to maintain an edge in an increasingly contested global military environment.

    Photo by Yuriy Maslov on Adobe Stock

    Northrop Grumman has commenced the Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) phase of the B-21, an aircraft anticipated to be the world’s most advanced bomber upon its service entry later this decade.

    The LRIP, which began in January, is part of a concerted effort to control costs—a lesson learned from the B-2 Spirit program, where production numbers were cut, leading to an astronomical per-unit cost. The B-21 Raider is estimated to cost about $750 million per unit, a figure that starkly contrasts with the $2 billion price tag of the B-2.

    In a strategic bid to contain expenses, Northrop Grumman expects initial financial losses during LRIP, a move to ensure budget adherence and avoid triggering the Nunn-McCurdy Act breach for cost overruns in Pentagon programs.

    With economies of scale and stealth coating enhancements, the unit costs are drawn down, although the specifics are closely guarded by the military.

    As the B-21 Raider made its first flight in November, with at least six prototypes in the pipeline, the production team is employing lessons from previous projects to improve repeatability and quality.

    The focus is on a state-of-the-art technology base that allows flexibility and rapid capability integration, ensuring the B-21 stays current in a constantly evolving threat landscape.

    The B-21 is essential for the Air Force’s future readiness, taking over roles from the aging B-2 fleet set for retirement. Amid discussions on production rates and potential budget constraints, parallels are drawn with the B-2’s past—a program initially set for 130 units but reduced to 21 after the Cold War’s end, skyrocketing the cost per aircraft.

    Notably, the B-21 will be a versatile “sixth-generation” bomber, serving multiple roles, including as a stealthy battle manager and intelligence collector.

    The Air Force’s strategy is to proceed with production at a calculated pace, cognizant of the possibility of budget cuts, while leveraging F-35 program lessons to ensure cost-effective production.

    The aim is to introduce at least 100 bombers, though analysts suggest increasing the fleet to 150-200 units to maintain a competitive edge.

    The Raider’s cost factors heavily into fleet size decisions, further emphasized by the Pentagon’s acquisition chief in January. LaPlante indicated that a careful production rate is planned to mitigate the impact of any budgetary cuts. These strategic choices reflect an awareness of both economic constraints and the imperative of air superiority.

    As the Air Force moves forward with its Raider objectives, the new bomber is already emerging as a critical component of the United States’ air power and a deterrent in the modern theater of war.

    With an open systems architecture allowing for swift updates and a design focused on challenging detection, the B-21 Raider is not merely a successor to its forebears but a leap into the future of aerial dominance.

    Relevant articles:
    B-21 Raider: The Cheap Stealth Bomber the U.S. Air Force Desperately Needs, The National Interest
    B-21 Raider: Could Nightmarish Costs Cancel This New Stealth Bomber?, nationalinterest.org
    B-21 Raider: The Stealth Bomber the Air Force Needs Right Now, The Heritage Foundation
    B-21 Raider: The Expensive Bomber the U.S. Air Force Is Desperate For, The National Interest

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