Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Air Force New Strategic Stealth Bomber Named ‘B-21 Raider’

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(Photo : USAF) B-21 Raider.

The world's most advanced strategic bomber -- the U.S. Air Force B-21 -- has finally gotten its long-sought honorific title.

The B-21, a stealth bomber similar in shape to the B-2 Spirit, will now be officially known as the "B-21 Raider."

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The name is quite apt since this next generation stealth bomber will be designed for very long distance raids to as far away as Asia and will have the ability to persistently loiter over a target area looking for targets of opportunity.

The B-21 Raider will join its sister strategic bombers in the Air Force Global Strike Command, the B-52 Stratofortress; the B-1B Lancer supersonic bomber and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on Sept. 17 announced the winning name from among 15 finalists in a worldwide naming contest launched last February.

"Today I want to recognize three Airmen who answered the call to be a part of a new Air Force legacy and name our new bomber," said James.  "The first two ... submitted proposals that captured the essence of the bomber force and they are the winners of our contest."

The third Airman James recognized, calling him one of the greatest men of his generation, was Doolittle Raider retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole.

The Doolittle Raiders that flew modified B-25 medium bombers were the first Allied unit to bomb Japan in World War II. This daring raid launched from U.S. Navy carriers on April 18, 1942 forced the Japanese to recall combat forces for home defense, and boosted morale among Americans and U.S. allies.

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.

While there were multiple entries advocating the B-21 be dubbed Raider, Air Force officials said the members were selected based on the overall quality of their justification.

James again highlighted the important role the B-21 Raider will play in allowing the Air Force to operate in tomorrow's high end threat environment, and in providing the Air Force the flexibility and capability to launch from the continental United States and deliver air strikes on any location in the world.

The B-21 Raider, designed based on a set of requirements that allow the use of existing and mature technology, is currently in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and the Air Force plans to field the initial capability of the aircraft in mid-2020s.

The B-21 Raider was first known as the "Long Range Strike-Bomber" or LRS-B distinguished by its very long range and its ability to loiter for extended periods over distant targets such as those in the South China Sea and Asia.

It will likely be a very long-range subsonic aircraft with broadband stealth capability. It's being designed to defeat low-frequency radars as effectively as high frequency sets.

More ominously, the Raider will be capable of carrying the entire range of air delivered nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, a capability only currently afforded B-52s.

Ultimately, the USAF plans to transform the B-21 Raider into the world's first unmanned or robotic strategic bomber with unmatched endurance.

In the unmanned role, the B-21 Raider will be used in non-nuclear combat to rain down guided missiles or guided bombs onto land or naval targets.  The nuclear capable versions of the bomber will be manned.

What will distinguish the B-21 from the B-2 is the former's enhanced stealthiness and its capability to loiter or hover over a battlefield for extended periods of time, allowing it to hit multiple targets of opportunity with precision.

It's being designed to survive daylight raids in heavily defended enemy territory. The B-21 will carry a weapons load of up to 12,700 kg.

The Air Force plans to purchase at least 100 B-21s at a cost of $550 million each. James described the B-21 as a fifth-generation global precision attack platform that will give the U.S. networked sensor-shoot capability. Initial operating capability for the B-21 is expected to be reached by 2030.

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