B-21 will be replaced if it cannot handle emerging capabilities

If the B-21 bomber does not cope with emerging capabilities, it will be replaced. Thus, even before it has passed a full set of tests and entered serial production, the future of the B-21 is at stake. We remind you that Northrup Grumman is still developing this strategic aircraft.

B-21 was unveiled - the backbone of deep penetration US aviation
Photo credit: US Army

The Pentagon’s readiness to take such action in the event of a bomber failure was confirmed by Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs Lt. Gen. Richard Moore. He made this statement in mid-April to US lawmakers.

One emerging capability is China. According to analysts in the Asia-Pacific region, the US is preparing a strike force of B-52 Stratofortresses and B-21 Raider bombers. The first will have to act from a distance. The B-21 will play an essential role as it will take on the responsibility of operating in contested environments. I.e. closer, or deep in the opponent’s back.

According to Moore, the possibility of the B-21 being replaced exists, and it should not be unusual. He recalled that the Pentagon had already taken such actions. The program for a new refueling system, for example, was pulled because of the changing threat.

The uncertainty of whether the B-21 will be able to match China’s modern warfighting capabilities puts the military budget under a hidden threat. For example, the US plans to build at least 100 B-21s. But some experts in the US say that at least twice as many [200-230] will be needed by Washington to counter Beijing.

Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber
Photo credit: Wikpedia

Such an opinion is expressed, for example, by Mark Gunzinger, a retired USAF colonel. In his opinion, Washington should have 225 B-21 bombers. They, along with the B-1 and B-52, should build a bomber fleet reaching 300. Then, Gunzinger says, the US can defeat China.

BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that Washington is already working on upgrading the B-1 Lancer. New pylons in the bomber will allow the B-1 to carry a much larger payload. Rumor has it that this also includes carrying a hypersonic weapon.

The survival of the American mission in a possible war with China will depend on the B-21 bombers, not cruise or ballistic missiles, or fighter jets. If the B-21 shows the possibility of deep penetration, it means that the American aircraft carriers will be at a distance of 1,800-2,700 kilometers from China’s coastline. This distance is favorable for the US Navy, as the range of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army anti-ship cruise missiles does not fly that far.

Russian nightmare: the brand new dangerous U.S. stealth bomber
Photo credit: Military.com

Here is one of the emerging capabilities that the B-21 will need to defend. We recall that the B-21 should fly 9,600 km and carry a payload of 10 tons.

The penetrating power of the B-21 will be severely tested. Some of China’s anti-aircraft missile systems are located deep inside the territory. At the same time, ships, planes, and submarines cannot fight continuously.

I.e. at some point, the B-21 Raider fleet will have to engage thousands of enemy targets while submarines and ships are in port to refuel. However, this takes weeks, so the B-21 will be the tool that will keep the US in the war.

Many questions remain unanswered at this time. For example, will the US be able to produce 20 B-21 bombers per year as planned? Because currently, according to experts, the USA can produce 8-9 bombers per year. I.e. half as desired.

China 'strikes' the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier in a simulation
Photo by MC3 George J. Penney III

At the same time, “subject to depletion” is in question. Gunzinger says that the US does not currently have a sufficient reserve of bomber depletion to absorb the intensity of a potential war specifically with China.

The worst thing about America is the weather. If the B-21 cannot counter emerging capabilities it means a new bomber design. At least that’s what Moore thought in his speech to lawmakers. He also emphasized that China is increasing its weapons capabilities at a very fast pace.

The B-21 is emerging as the platform most likely to be engaged in a war with China. This bomber is supposed to fly the most sorties during the conflict. That is why its importance is particularly great. Even more so, since, although it has not yet passed flight tests and has not entered serial production, Washington already considers it the backbone of American bomber aviation. What if it fails to counter the emerging threats?


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