Updated 11:48 PM EDT, Sat, Mar 28, 2020

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US Air Force Says it Can Do the Job with Just 165 Strategic Heavy Bombers

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(Photo : USAF) U.S. aerial might: A B-2 Spirit, B-1B Lancer and B-52G Stratofortress fly in formation.

The U.S. Air Force admits it will need only 165 heavy bombers of all types (both non-stealth and stealth) to enable it to successfully prosecute its combat operations worldwide in the event of conflict.

The air force currently operates 159 heavy bombers consisting of 62 Rockwell B-1B Lancer variable sweep-wing supersonic heavy bombers; 20 Northrop B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, and 77 Boeing B-52G Stratofortress strategic bombers.

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It now says it wants a total future bomber fleet of around 165 aircraft, including the new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider Long Range StrikeBombers (LRSBs) currently under development, said Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, to the House Armed Services Committee's Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

Last March, the B-21 "Raider" completed is preliminary design review and is "making great progress, and we're pleased with the way it's headed," according to Gen. Stephen Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Gen. Wilson told 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-52G; the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The B-21 Raider is 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.

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