Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Air Force announces Ellsworth AFB as first B-21 base
B-21 Air Force reveals B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber, designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium Feb. 26 in Orlando, Fla., and announced the Air Force will be taking suggestions from Airmen to help decide the name of the bomber.
“This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and (their) voice is important to this process,” James said. “The Airman who submits the selected name will help me announce it at the (Air Force Association) conference this fall.”
While there are no existing prototypes of the aircraft, the artist rendering is based on the initial design concept. The designation B-21 recognizes the LRS-B as the first bomber of the 21st century.
The reveal comes just weeks after both James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III delivered the fiscal year 2017 posture statement before the Senate Appropriations Committee, making it clear modernization is a top priority for the Air Force.
“The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50,” Welsh said during his testimony on Capitol Hill Feb. 10. “There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats… the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new.”
James said the B-21 will allow the Air Force to operate in tomorrow's high end threat environment, and give the Air Force the flexibility and the capability to launch from the continental United States and deliver airstrikes on any location in the world.
James also explained why the B-21 shares some resemblance to the B-2.
“The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology,” James said.
The program recently entered into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and the Air Force plans to field the initial capability of the aircraft in mid-2020s.
Pratt & Whitney, BAE Among Major B-21 Contractors
5:44 p.m. EST March 7, 2016
Almost five months after the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a hotly contested contract to build the secretive long range strike bomber, now called the B-21, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James gave reporters a sneak peek at the list of major subcontractors on the program during a March 7 briefing at the Pentagon.
As many expected, F-35 engine-maker Pratt & Whitney will build the B-21 engine at its facility in East Hartford, Connecticut, James announced. As Defense News reported in November, the decision not to go with GE Aviation for the B-21 engine reflects a departure from history, as GE builds the F118 that powers Nothrop’s B-2 stealth bomber.
The other six industry partners named March 7 will work on “airframe or mission systems” for the new plane, James said. These contractors are: BAE Systems, working out of Nashua, New Hampshire; GKN Aerospace in St. Louis, Missouri; Janicki Industries in Sedro-Woolley, Washington; Orbital ATK in Clearfield, Utah and Dayton, Ohio; Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas.
James declined to give additional details about which B-21 components each contractor will build.
The Air Force’s decision to release the names of the seven major B-21 contractors is part of an effort to be more transparent and build support for the costly program, James said. The B-21 faces a battle for funding against other Air Force and Pentagon priorities, particularly on Capitol Hill. Earlier this month, the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, threatened to block the program.
“The B-2 remained in the shadows for too long, it remained classified — too many details remained classified too long,” James said. “In the case of the B-21, we are leaning forward and we are trying to be more transparent and we are going to continue to do so.”