The B-21 Raider will be a dual-capable penetrating strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The B-21 will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force consisting of B-21s and B-52s. Designed to operate in tomorrow’s high-end threat environment, the B-21 will play a critical role in ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability.
The B-21 Raider will be a component of a larger family of systems for conventional Long Range Strike, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, electronic attack, communication and other capabilities. It will be nuclear capable and designed to accommodate manned or unmanned operations. Additionally, it will be able to employ a broad mix of stand-off and direct-attack munitions.
The B-21 is being designed with open systems architecture to reduce integration risk and enable competition for future modernization efforts to allow for the aircraft to evolve as the threat environment changes.
The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office leads the development of the B-21 Raider under the direction of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Secretary of the Air Force.
The Air Force awarded the B-21 Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract to Northrop Grumman on October 27th, 2015. Northrop Grumman’s partners on the B-21 program include Pratt & Whitney, Janicki Industries, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems and Spirit Aerosystems.
In 2018, the program successfully conducted the weapon systems Critical Design Review, a comprehensive program-wide evaluation of design maturity, stability and risk.
In 2019, the Air Force completed the Strategic Basing Process announcing Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas are the preferred locations for B-21 main operating bases.
After completing the Environmental Impact Statement process as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory processes, in 2021, the Air Force named Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota as the first B-21 main operating base and location of the Formal Training Unit.
The Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California will host the B-21 Combined Test Force and the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma is the site for depot planning.
The B-21 Raider is named in honor of the historic Doolittle Raiders, U.S. Army Air Force men who are known for their surprise attack against Japan during World War II on April 18, 1942, which forced the Japanese to recall combat forces for home defense, and boosted morale among Americans and U.S. allies abroad. The designation B-21 recognizes the Raider as the first bomber of the 21st century.
Primary Function: Nuclear-capable, penetrating strike stealth bomber.
Lead Command: Air Force Global Strike Command
Inventory: Minimum of 100 aircraft
Average Unit Procurement Cost*: $550 million (base year 2010 dollars) /$639 million (base year 2019 dollars)
*Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directed B-21 Average Procurement Unit Cost as a key performance parameter as the best means to control costs.
Munitions: Nuclear and conventional