Coming soon to a war near you?
For conventional missions, the B-21 will carry the JASSM-ER conventional cruise missile and two-thousand-pound GBU-31 Joint Directed Attack Munition satellite-guided bombs. The B-21 could use these weapons in a similar manner as its nuclear weapons, blasting its way through the enemy’s defenses before dropping JDAMs. Alternately, the B-21 could be used as a missile truck, launching up to sixteen JASSM-ERs at enemy targets from a distance, or penetrating less sophisticated enemy defenses to deliver JDAMs on target. The B-21 will also need to carry the thirty-thousand-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator bomb, the largest conventional bomb in the U.S. arsenal, as the B-2 is currently the only bomber capable of lifting the enormous bomb.
On October 27, 2015, nearly thirty-four years to the day after Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to develop the first stealth bomber, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop a contract for a new bomber: the B-21 Raider. While many of the details of the Raider are shrouded in mystery, we do know a few things about it, and can infer others.
The B-21 Raider bomber takes its name from both the twenty-first century and the legendary 1942 raid by Gen. James “Jimmy” Doolittle’s force of B-25 Mitchell bombers against targets in and around Tokyo, Japan. In invoking the Doolittle Raid, the Air Force is drawing attention to attack’s audacious nature, the strategic and tactical surprise, and the epic distances General Doolittle and his “raiders” flew to accomplish their mission.
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