The U.S. Air Force released two new images of the B-21 Raider during the 2023 Air and Space Forces Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colorado on Tuesday.
General Thomas A. Bussier, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, spoke at the symposium and highlighted what is needed to defeat the threats facing the U.S.
One of those aspects was a bomber fleet that includes the B-21 Raider, which is described as a bomber that is adaptable for future threats and has both nuclear and conventional capabilities.
Bussier called the B-21 the “future backbone of the bomber fleet,” adding that the military branch will have 100 of the Raiders, at a minimum.
In the long-term plan, the Air Force plans to acquire 220 or more bombers.
The B-21 is “on track to deliver operational aircraft to its first main operating base in the mid-2020s,” the general said.
The U.S. Air Force said in a press release that the plane was designed with an open architecture that allows for the quick insertion of mature technologies. It was also designed for supportability, maintainability and sustainability.
“The technologies that are integrated, and the open architecture system will provide any potential capabilities to advance, modernize and keep that weapon system on the leading edge of a threat in the future,” Bussier said.
The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than three decades, and almost every aspect of the program has been classified.
When the bomber was first unveiled in December, manufacturer Northrop Grumman said that the rollout of the newest nuclear stealth bomber marked the first time the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft would be seen by the public.
“When delivered to the Air Force, the B-21 will join the nation’s strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent; supporting national security objectives and assuring the nation’s allies and partners,” the company said in a release.
The nuclear triad includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads.
The cost of the bombers remains unknown — although it was projected to be approximately $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or about $750 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars — and the Raider will not make its first flight until next year.