This is the B-21, formerly known as the Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B for short. It’s the first all-new American heavy bomber in decades, and it’s supposed to fly alongside and could eventually replace the B-52, which has been a mainstay of every major American conflict since the 1950s.
Announced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium, the B-21 aims to be the long arm of the United States Air Force, for both conventional and thermonuclear warfare.
Here is video of the announcement:
The B-21 has been shrouded in layers of mystery until now. It’s design was kept secret, even as the government awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to build it. Expected to cost approximately $564 million apiece, and with up to 100 units planned to be built, the B-21 is expected to not only complement America’s first sleek stealth bomber, the famed B-2 Spirit, as well as the iconic B-52 Stratofortress and the supersonic B-1B Lancer, but one day also supplant them.
While it doesn’t have a fancy nickname like Stratofortress, Spirit, or Lancer yet, Secretary James said that service members will be given an opportunity to help name the bomber in the near future.
The B-21's full capabilities are still undisclosed at the moment, though it’ll be sure to have the latest iteration of American stealth technology, long range, heavy payloads, and possibly even a degree of autonomous capability. More than a mere bomb truck, however, it is expected to be a multi-talented platform, including sensor, network, and data fusion capabilities, along with the ability to conduct electronic warfare and surveillance.
Barring any unforeseen delays, the B-21 is expected to enter service around 2025.