The Air Force has announced that the unveiling of its new strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider, will take place on December 2nd. This program is an industry-government success story: so far, the program is on time and on budget. Part of the reason for its success is that the B-21 is, in many respects, a logical evolutionary step from what has come before. At the same time, however, the Raider could be the central player in revolutionizing the strike capability of the U.S. Air Force. The focus is no longer on just the capabilities of a fighter or bomber but also on accompanying capabilities that will be integrated with current and future platforms. The Air Force sees the B-21 and the future Next Generation Air Dominance platform as part of a family of systems. It was designed from its inception to be a sophisticated, stealthy “truck” that could incorporate future generations of sensors, electronics, and weapons, both nuclear and conventional. Its advanced electronics, stealth features, and ability to exploit offboard sensing will allow the B-21 to defeat adversaries’ integrated air defenses. With the proliferation of unmanned platforms and technologies, the Raider has the potential to be a long-range penetrating mothership. I have written more on this subject here.
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