B21 stealth bomber will be built for easily upgradable software and hardware

The US Air Force’s new B-21 long-range strike bomber under development will feature flexible technology that will allow its capabilities to be modernized over time to stave off obsolescence, a top acquisition general testified to a Senate panel.

The military will be able to upgrade the aircraft’s software systems as technology evolves or make changes as adversaries evolve, Air Force Lt. Gen Arnold Bunch Jr., military deputy of the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland.

That so-called “open-architecture system” of the aircraft is significant given each B-21 stealth bomber is expected to cost about $500 million and will likely be in service for decades. Having a more open platform will allow the electronics and software to be upgraded much more rapidly.

The emerging B-21 will introduce new stealth technologies better suited to elude cutting-edge air defenses, Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

The air force plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to get as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollar.