|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Mar 20, 2017 10:10 AM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) B-21 Raider.
The U.S. Air Force's new stealth bomber, the B-21 "Raider" -- which is being designed to attack China -- has completed preliminary design review and is making "great progress," according to Air Force brass.
"They just finished preliminary design review recently," admitted Gen. Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force to the House Armed Services Committee last week.
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He also said the B-21 program is "making great progress, and we're pleased with the way it's headed." Gen. Wilson also told the U.S. Congressmen the B-21 is on schedule and on budget.
The Air Force plans to acquire some 100 B-21s for an estimated $80 billion. Initial operating capability for the nuclear-weapon strategic bomber capable of penetrating modern air defenses (such as those operated by China and Russia) is set for the mid-2020s.
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.
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.
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