B-21 Raider (“Raider”): the US $700 million spearhead

(To Andrea Cucco)

The B-21 stealth bomber Raider will begin replacing the B-1Bs Lancer and B-2 Spirit in US strategic deterrence in the coming years ("mid-20s").

The acquisition of the B-21 immediately started on a fast track compared to other programs. In fact, 7 years were enough to go from the awarding of the contract to Northrop Grumman on 27 October 2015 (partners: Pratt & Whitney, Janicki Industries, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems and Spirit Aerosystems) to the creation and public presentation of the first example on December 2, 2022. Record time to realize the maximum in aeronautical technology.

What is the B-21

Il Raider It's a bomber stealth attack vehicle with double ammunition transport capacity: both conventional and nuclear. It is designed to operate in high-level hostile environments and will form the backbone of the Air Force's future bomber force, consisting of B-21s and B-52s.

Features of the B-21 include systems for long-range conventional strikes, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic attack, communications and other capabilities.

Because it's not an upgraded B-2

Even with a lower war load capacity (the B-2s can carry around 18 tons), the B-21s will be able to carry out operations with or unmanned and employ a wide range of direct attack munitions and stand-off. They are also designed with aopen architecture to allow continuous updates, so as to constantly evolve with changing threats.

The cost

The price (referring to 2022) of each example is currently around 692 million dollars (compared to the 553 estimated in the 2015 contract). A figure that may surprise but still controlled by economies of scale if we consider that the B-2, with the cut from 132 to 21 examples, went from 440 million to 2,1 billion per aircraft!

The production target is, at the moment, (at least) 100 bombers.

Photo: US Air Force