Naming a new bomber aircraft is the easy and cheap part. Getting it of the ground, into production and into combat is the easy and hard part. But that is exactly where the US Air Force and Northrop Grumman are now at with the newly named B-21 Raider, until now only known as the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) or B-21. It should replace B-1 and B-2 bombers in the next decade or so.
The name ‘Raider’ was chosen out of suggestions made by US military service members and made public on Monday 19 September by 101 year-old World War II bomber pilot Richard E. Cole at the Air, Space & Cyber Conference 2016.
Other than its newly revealed name, the only thing known about the B-21 is that an artist’s impression shows an bomber aircraft that largely resembles a B-2 Stealth bomber. What should be different however, is the price tag. Whereas the B-2 Stealth program resulted in a staggering price tag of 2 billion USD a piece, the current plans are to aqcuire 80 to 100 B-21 Raiders against a price tag of 550 million USD a piece
Yes, so more B-21s than B-2s are to be purchased. But anyone with a bit of aviation and defense knowledge knows that a unit price of 550 million will never be achieved. The actual aircraft will of course end up a lot more expensive, although nobody seems to know or willing to predict how much more expensive it will be. Senator John McCain previously tried to get the Pentagon to divulge more about the total cost.
And that’s a wise thing to request, given the fact that other major weapons program that is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning, with a total program cost that now stand at roughly 400 billion USD. And that’s costs shared with other nations. The costs of developing and producing the B-21 Raider will definitely not be shared with other nations, given the strategic importance of the program for the US.
The B-21 Raider may well be a raider of US taxpayer’s money before anything else. The hard part, is to not let that happen.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest