Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the B-21 bomber will be called the B-21 Raider. The name represents the historically important role the new long-range stealth bomber will lead for the next 50 years.
The Air Force’s long-range strike bomber that will replace the antique B-52's developed during the cold war has officially been named the B-21 Raider.
The all-black plane has a distinctive, zigzagging shape and a low profile designed to make it hard to spot on radar.
It is 'projected to enter service in the mid-2020s, building to a fleet of 100 aircraft.'
The US Air Force on Friday unveiled the first image of its next-generation bomber that will replace antique B-52s first developed during the Cold War. The all-black plane has a distinctive, zigzagging shape and a low profile designed to make it hard to spot on radar
The name was ultimately selected by James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein after a panel composed of staff from AFGSC and Headquarters Air Force determined the top-ranked selections from more than 2,100 unique naming submissions.
'The B-21 is intended to operate in both conventional and nuclear roles, with the capability of penetrating and surviving in advanced air defense environments,' The Air Force said.
'It will be capable of operation by an onboard crew or piloted remotely.'
Earlier this year the US Air Force unveiled the first image of its new stealth bomber when Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James provided the world with the first glimpse of the project using an artist's rendering.
The rendering bears more than a passing resemblance to the Air Force's B-2 bomber, which is also made by Northrop Grumman.
However the new document reveals it may not be that accurate.
'The released rendering shows a flying-wing design not dissimilar to the B-2, although simpler in shape.
'It resembles early proposed designs that later evolved into the B-2.'
The report also outlines the craft,s unmanned capabilities, saying 'Initial B-21s will be manned, with unmanned operation possible several years after initial operational capability (IOC).'
Nuclear qualification will also take two years or so after IOC, the report says.
It is designed to be launch from the continental US and deliver airstrikes on any location in the world.
At an earlier event in Orlando, James revealed the plane - previously known as the Long Range Strike Bomber - would be called the B-21 until a new name has been agreed on, and she invited air crews to help.
The designation B-21 recognises the aircraft as the military’s first bomber of the 21st century.
'This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and (their) voice is important to this process,' James told the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium.
The new bomber is a high Air Force priority because the oldest ones in its fleet — the venerable B-52s — have far outlived their expected service life. Even the newest — the B-2 stealth bombers (pictured) — having been flying for more than two decades
The program has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception for fear of revealing military secrets to potential enemies.
The military also wanted to avoid giving the losing bidders any details before their formal protest was rejected last week.
The Air Force wants 100 of the warplanes, which will replace the ageing B-52s and the B-1 bombers that first saw action in the 1980s.
Industry news reports say that while the new plane's specific capabilities are highly secret, it likely will be equipped with high-tech communications gear and other electronics that would allow it to perform a variety of missions, not just dropping bombs.
The new bomber is a high Air Force priority because the oldest ones in its fleet — the venerable B-52s — have far outlived their expected service life.
Even the newest — the B-2 stealth bombers — having been flying for more than two decades.
A third bomber, the B-1, is used heavily for conventional strikes, but no longer is certified for nuclear missions.
The Pentagon in October announced Northrop as the winner of the contract to build the bomber in a decades-long program that will likely end up costing in excess of $100 billion.
But work on the new plane was delayed for months while federal auditors reviewed a protest by Boeing and its key supplier, Lockheed Martin.
Boeing has now told senior U.S. Air Force leaders that it will not take further legal action challenging the contract, Reuters said, citing two sources familiar with the decision.
The B-21 bomber will replace Air Force B-52 bombers, which have been flying for more than half a century. Pictured is the B-52 Stratofortress entered service in the 1950s. dailymail
A pilot and co-pilot of a B-52 bomber in an image taken in 1972. These bombers are not out of date at the Air Force is looking to replace them with 100 B-21 bombers
The Air Force, under pressure from lawmakers and retired Air Force officers, has promised to release more information about the new plane in March.
And the program has now survived the legal protest process, it still faces hurdles in Congress.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain on Thursday said he would block the Air Force's use of a cost-plus type of contract for the long-range bomber since it holds the government responsible for cost overruns.
The Air Force says that only the engineering and development phase of the program, valued at $21.4 billion, is structured as a cost-plus contract with incentive fees.
Analysts say the program will be worth around $80 billion in total, providing a boon to Northrop and its key suppliers, but the Air Force has said only that it expects to pay $511 million per plane.
John Michael Loh, a retired four-star U.S. Air Force general, has urged the Air Force to name Northrop's suppliers to shore up support in Congress, and avoid a re-run of the B-2 bomber program, which was scaled back from 132 planes to just 21, which drove the price of each plane sharply higher.
THE HISTORY OF THE B-2 BOMBER
The first operational aircraft, christened Spirit of Missouri, was delivered to Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, where the fleet is based, on 17 December 1993.
Twenty one aircraft were built in the original B-2 fleet.
The B-2 has demonstrated its capabilities in several combat scenarios, including Operation Allied Force in Kosovo; Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and most recently, in Libya, during Operation Odyssey Dawn.
The B-2 is the only U.S. aircraft that combines long range, large payload and stealth in a single platform, giving it the ability to project air power anywhere in the world.
It can fly 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling.
The Air Force said it will buy 100 of the new bombers at a newly calculated average cost of $511 million each. Pictured is the a B-2A bomber from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. dailymail
With its ability to carry more than 20 tons of conventional and nuclear ordnance and deliver it precisely under any weather conditions, the B-2 also has the ability to change the outcome of a conflict with a single mission.
Today, the fleet consists of 20 aircraft, following the loss, in February 2008, of the Spirit of Kansas, which crashed while taking off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the only such incident in the B-2's more than 20 years of operation.
Nineteen B-2s are currently based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., home of the 509th Bomb Wing, while one aircraft is assigned to flight testing at Edwards AFB, California to validate software and weapon systems upgrades.
The idea is that the latest B-21 bomber, which is still on the drawing board will replace Air Force B-52 bombers, which have been flying for more than half a century.
It will also eventually the B-1 bombers, when they retire sometime in the 2040s.