US Air Force names new B-21 stealth bomber ‘Raider’ as tribute to WWII Japan raids

An artist rendering shows the first image of a new Northrop Grumman Corp long-range bomber B21 in this image released on February 26, 2016. © U.S. Air Force / Reuters
The US Air Force has announced its new long range stealth bomber will be called the B-21 ‘Raider’. The planes are the first new US bombers to be built this century, while the whole project cost in the region of $80 billion.

Over 2,000 submissions were put forward to name the new bomber, the US Air Force said in a statement. The name was chosen by US Air Force Secretary Deborah James and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein after the panel had whittled the number of options down. 

In the end the pair opted for ‘Raider’ to honor the Doolittle raiders, who carried out bombing missions over Japan in World War II.

“I am very humbled to be here representing Gen. [Jimmy] Doolittle and the Raiders at the naming of the B-21 Raider,” said retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, the last living airman of the 1942 Doolittle Raid, as cited by Stripes, who added he was “deeply honored” to be taking part. 

In response to the Pearl Harbor attacks, the US adapted its B-52 Mitchell bombers to be able to reach Japan and the under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle, the aircraft bombed Tokyo and other Japanese cities in 1942. 

The stealth bombers, which were built by Northrop Grumman Corp, are not expected to come into service until the mid-2020s, but they will provide the US Air Force with aircraft that possess better propulsion and stealth abilities. 

Northrop won a contract in October to build 100 new B-21 stealth bombers. It will eventually replace the aging B-52 and B-1 bombers, when they are eventually ready for combat use. 

The B-21 does look oddly familiar and is very similar to the B-2 Spirit, which was also built by Northrop Grumman. The B-2 Spirit entered the US Air Force in 1997, but only 21 of the bombers were ever built at a “flyaway cost” of $737 million apiece, before the program was canceled in 2000. 

The new stealth bombers will be able to carry the US military’s upgraded B-61 nuclear bomb, while it will also be armed with new generation cruise missiles with a range of up to 3,000 miles (4,800km). 

Last week, the US Air Force suffered the embarrassment of having to ground 13 of its F-35 fighter jets which had been deemed “ready for combat” due to “improper manufacturing processes.” 

The $1.12 trillion project, the US military’s costliest weapons program ever, has been suffering problems with material breaking off into fuel tank cooling lines “was discovered during depot modification of an F-35A and affects a total of 57 aircraft,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said on September 16, as cited by Reuters.