As Expected B-21 Stealth Bomber Looks Similar to B-2 Bomber

The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman have published photorealistic renderings of new concepts for the next-generation stealth bomber, the B-21.

The B-21 was expected to reach IOC (initial operating capability) in the mid-2020s but there was a recent statement by Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin
Rand that IOC might slip to late-2020s. The history of US military systems means that they get a handful before 2030 and are working out problems from 2030-2035.

The main technical risk is less around trying to take the best current stealth coatings and technology to make a better stealth bomber. The Air Force leadership would know the progress in current stealth technology.

The main technical risk for this program is making the software and the networking systems modular and upgradable and to make them work well in the first place. They want these to be flying sensors and communication stealth command centers.

B-21 is being acquired through nontraditional means, using the Air Force’s Rapid Capability Office instead of a standard dedicated program office. Nextbigfuture Translation – This should mean they are taking technology that is ready without further development.

The B-21 development is being conducted through a cost-plus-incentive-fee development contract followed by firm-fixed-price procurement. Nextbigfuture Translation – This means that the current cost estimates are garbage and that there will be price inflation and the US tax-payer will get ripped off. The US tax-payer will be lucky if these things cost less than $2 billion each.

The B-21 would not be used for any meaningful military operations until after 2035 unless there was an emergency where the regular B-2 and F-22s were inadequate.

The current plan is to buy 100 bombers but this could be increased.

Leading Edge of Stealth – Flying Sensor and Communications Nodes

The 17-page congressional report on the B-21 bomber program has the following highlights.

* B-21s would initially replace the fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers, and could possibly replace B-52s in the future
* The FY2020 budget request included $3.0 billion for further development of the
B-21. As passed, the FY2019 defense appropriations bill funded the program at $2.28 billion.
* It will be part of a family of systems, and that other unspecified programs would support the bomber in operation. It will be the node of a larger, distributed network of sensors and communications, not all of which may have been publicly disclosed.
* It will have an open architecture that will allow new sensors or other subsystems from various vendors to be easily integrated into the aircraft. As a result, the initial B-21 aircraft can be augmented more easily as advanced technologies are developed; it also means that what might otherwise be expensive development of advanced sensors and/or other subsystems may be deferred and/or competed independent of the aircraft itself.

The B-21 was designed around three specific capabilities:
1. A large and flexible payload bay capable of carrying a full range of current and
future armament.
2. Range (although classified).
3. Projected average procurement unit cost of $550 million per plane in FY2010 dollars, which was announced publicly to encourage competing manufacturers to constrain their designs.

19 thoughts on “As Expected B-21 Stealth Bomber Looks Similar to B-2 Bomber”

  1. So a nuclear armed recipient waits until they receive the package to know just how pissed their enemy are?

    Not sure how many adversaries would think it was a ‘a sheep in wolfs clothing’

  2. “means that they get a handful before 2030”
    So our primary bomber in 2030 will be ~ 80 years old. Probably they’ll still be using that bomber in 2080. I’d like to be around for the 100th anniversary of the B-52s, and I’m not talking about the (lame) band.

  3. Starship has some conversational military use…

    I know that was probably a “spell chequer” type error, but I’m sitting here being amused at the idea of “conversational missile strikes”.

    You see, we are using the deep penetration strikes as a way of conveying information to the other side, to indicate that we are not pleased with their actions and wish to resolve matters before needing to escalate our dialogue to …

  4. I apoligize for deleating my post. I just hate all this military stuff, and prefer not to speculate in this area.

  5. I can see the point of the general “smart” approach.

    Killing OR capturing a couple of dozen generals, colonels and senior political leaders would:
    .1. Probably dissuade potential enemies just as much as killing thousands, or 10s of thousands, of conscript troops.
    .2. Probably disrupt their offensive actions as much as killing thousands, or 10s of thousands, of conscript troops.
    .3. Kill a lot less innocent, or at least not aggressively guilty people.

    In the negative category:
    .4. This is basically what the USA has been doing for at least a decade, and it certainly hasn’t stopped them being criticized.
    .5. Bad people don’t hesitate to use human shields. And even normal people do often hang out with friends and family.

    In the neutral category.
    .6. This will encourage and normalize revenge assassinations on US political and military leaders. Which I’m rating as neutral because I don’t want it to happen, but meh…

  6. Starship has some conversational military use as an way to destroy deeply buried structures up to an 100 ton penetrator as this would hit harder than anything except an nuke or you can carry multiple smaller to take out multiple easier targets at once instead of using multiple B2 to dig an hole.
    However you can not hide an starship launch.

  7. You’ve just reinvented the ICBM. Which is a real weapon system, but it’s a different weapon from a stealth bomber, with different applications.
    This is like saying that one should buy grenades instead of pistols. Different weapon for different uses.

    And for non-world-war applications? ICBMs are not suitable. Like issuing grenades instead of pistols to your police officers.

  8. Nearly all military tech is obsolete. A.I. changes everything. People are way too rooted in the present and the past to recognize how A.I. effects military technology. Profoundly foolish to put more money into stealth bombers that cost their weight in gold bullion.

  9. Right. They can get away with delivering military payloads to space, but the first time they’re used to deliver a military payload to it’s target, the potential civilian uses dramatically contract.

  10. Bad move, militarily.

    If you are in orbit, you are very visible, from a LONG distance away (as soon as you clear the horizon). It also takes a while to fall from orbit to lithobraking activity. Lastly, while “stealth” does not (and never has) mean invisible, it does mean the B-21 will be much harder to spot and counter than any SpaceX Starship operating from orbit.

  11. Bad move, commercially.  

    The MINUTE a SpaceX ‘space freighter’ becomes a bomb-delivery vehicle, it gets the unwanted distinction of being a ballistic MISSILE. Thus, were any country to see one a’coming, even if its ultimate mission is to deliver Oscar Meyer Wieners to babies in Uganda, well … they might just shoot it down. Especially if a country were named China, Russia, Norkorea, and so on.  

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  12. A couple hundred billion $US over 2020-2035 for bombers would be far better invested in just buying SpaceX Cargo Starship systems without modification. Stealth is unlikely to survive vs peer adversaries. Starship would could be an unmanned orbital or Space ballistic overflight kinetic bomber.

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