Four years after the start of research and development, the US Air Force recently revealed more information about the new generation of stealth bomber B-21 Raiders. According to the US Air Force’s official website on the 10th, Stephen Wilson, deputy chief of staff of the US Air Force, visited Northrop Grumman’s B-21 bomber design and development headquarters in Florida. The latest issue of the US Air Force Magazine, for the first time, revealed a large amount of new information on the B-21.
Factory “Crazy People” Full Speed Production B-21
The U.S. Air Force official website reported that during a visit to the B-21 Design and Development Headquarters, Wilson visited the on-site facilities and learned about the latest developments in software development and the construction of the first test machine in progress at the Palmdale plant in California .
An article published in the “Air Force Magazine” entitled “Assaulters are taking shape” states that the first B-21 bomber will be manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale factory in California and may be in 20 months. The internal and offline lines were made public to the public, and the first flight took place in the following months.
The article said that senior U.S. Air Force officials began talking more openly about the B-21. Randall G. Walden, head of the Air Force’s Rapid Response Capability Office, which is responsible for bomber development, said the Palmdale plant had begun construction. “We did have an aircraft there … that was our test aircraft number one. We are building a production line.” The report said that major structures such as wings are being put on the assembly line.
U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen W. Wilson said he was calculating the B-21’s first flight time, which is expected to take place in December 2021. He emphasized that the B-21 is very complicated, and system integration, ground testing and even weather may affect the first flight.
Walden promised that, like the B-2 in 1988, the B-21 would be displayed publicly in Palmdale. It took nine months for the B-2 to go from public display to the first flight of the unit (B-2 and B-21 were developed by Northrop Grumman-Editor’s Note). U.S. Air Force officials estimate that the evaluation period for the B-21’s first flight from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base will be much shorter. Walden said that after that, the U.S. Air Force will “open” the B-21’s capabilities.
According to reports, in August to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, Northrop Grumman said that their California factory employees had increased from 24,000 to about 28,000. “We have been hiring wildly,” said the company’s aerospace systems president. At the same time, they are renovating and expanding factory facilities. Satellite images show a number of new buildings in the Edwards base south, including a building large enough to accommodate the B-2. ▲
Stealth performance is greatly enhanced
“Air Force Magazine” also revealed for the first time some of the technical characteristics of the B-21. Walden told Air Force Magazine that the B-21 did not plan to use sub-size verification machines to prove the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. It is reported that the shape of the B-21 is almost the same as the initial top view of the B-2, indicating that the aircraft has been optimized for stealth at high altitudes. The design requirements for the B-2 were changed early in the project, making the aircraft more capable and easier to operate in low-altitude “penetrating flight.” The shape of the B-2 was changed to the familiar “Zigzag” tail. A design revision takes billions of dollars and years. The U.S. Air Force’s B-21 imagination chart shows that the flying wing configuration has not been modified, which indicates that the U.S. Air Force does not intend to lower the B-21 to fly at an altitude.
The imaginary picture shows that the B-21 has a very straight and narrow air inlet at a certain angle in the upper part of the fuselage. In order to remain invisible, the engine fan blades must be hidden inside the fuselage and lined with radar absorbing material to reduce the radar’s radar cross section. In addition, the B-21 employs a “very different design” in terms of airflow, suggesting that the trade-off between stealth and thrust has been carefully considered. The B-21 project uses a non-flying “iron bird” to test the assembly of components.
At the same time, US Air Force officials described the B-21 as a “very low detectability” design, rather than describing the F-22 and F-35 as “very low detectability.” The U.S. Air Force did not disclose whether the B-21 would be powered by two or four engines, but analysts agreed that the aircraft may use Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engine, which is currently equipped with F-35 fighters. Two F135s can produce 25.4 tons of non-afterburning thrust, but this requires more installation space than the four General Electric F118 engines in the B-2. In addition, the B-21 is smaller than the B-2 and has a payload of about 13 tons. It can carry a GBU-57 giant ground bomb, which is the largest bomb in the US Air Force inventory.
In addition, the B-21 has been described from the beginning as an “optional manned” aircraft that will have the capability to perform nuclear missions and will receive the B-61 free-fall nuclear bomb and long-range out-of-zone (LRSO) under development. missile. ▲
Half the number to counter “emerging threats”
According to Air Force Magazine, Walden stated in 2016 that a contract to purchase 100 aircraft could be worth $ 55 billion. The US Air Force’s original B-21 contract plan required the purchase of “80 to 100” aircraft, but US Air Force executives have been touting the theory of “at least 100” aircraft for the past two years. At the US Air Force Association ’s aerospace and webinar seminar in September this year, the US Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfin said that he agreed with 100% of third-party reports on “too few”. He said he wanted to buy more than 100 aircraft and that the purchase would be faster than current plans.
US Air Force Acting Secretary Matthew Donovan said in an interview with Air Force Magazine in October that he believed that another seven bomber squadrons would be needed, which are needed for long-range power projection in the Pacific Theater and other regions. Donovan pointed out: “A bomber squadron has about eight aircraft,” so the US Air Force needs to add another 56 bombers. “I think … you will see in our 2020 budget requirements that we have added some to the total number of bombers,” Donovan said. He also cited an analysis by the Air Force Association Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Conclusion-The US Air Force needs at least 174 B-21 bombers.
According to the article, based on the 2010 US dollar price, the price of each aircraft is expected to be 511 million US dollars, and the highest price is 550 million US dollars. In 2019, the US dollar value was 553 million US dollars and 651.7 million US dollars. However, both numbers are calculated based on the purchase of 100 aircraft, and larger production volumes may reduce unit costs.
The US Air Force Global Strike Command plans to retire 62 B-1 and 20 B-2 bombers around 2031. The production of 15 B-21 bombers per year will allow the Air Force to have 100 new bombers during that period. The U.S. Air Force restarted the 420th Flight Test Squadron in Edwards, which had tested the B-2.
According to the U.S. Air Force official website, Wilson said in an exchange with the B-21 R & D team that the B-21 was equipped to operate in a global confrontational environment and respond to emerging threats. Chinese experts believe that “emerging threats” in the official U.S. language often refer to China. Experts say that 150 B-21s are a threat to other countries. In response, the development of response measures should be accelerated. On the one hand, it strengthens the development and deployment of counter forces, such as anti-stealth radars and anti-stealth missiles. On the other hand, it is necessary to strengthen the corresponding attack capabilities, such as the development of stealth strategic bombers.