Ellsworth AFB prepares to receive Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider strategic bombers

Ellsworth AFB advisory on the traffic patterns in the future shows that construction activities are to begin. In a release, Lt. Col. Keith O'Halloran, Chief of the 28th Bomb Wing Commander's Action Group, stated that there would be a significant increase in commercial traffic that will support 36 major B-21 construction projects and develop a plan to minimize the impact on the Raider community.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India, portal publishing news and current affairs. He holds an M.B.A in International Business from the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, USA. Twitter: @chackojoseph *views are Personal.

Ellsworth Air force Base has notified the beginning of construction of the construction work for receiving the first futuristic long range bomber Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider. 

Ellsworth AFB is currently the home to B-1B Lancer long range bomber aircraft. The B-1B, a supersonic strategic bomber with a variable-sweep wing, is one of three kinds of heavy bombers used by the United States Air Force. The aircraft was meant to destroy strategic enemy objectives with nuclear and conventional missiles while also providing assistance to ground forces. This plane was utilized by the United States Air Force in operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. These planes are now headed for retirement.

Ellsworth AFB advisory on the traffic patterns in the future shows that construction activities are to begin. In a release, Lt. Col. Keith O’Halloran, Chief of the 28th Bomb Wing Commander’s Action Group, stated that there would be a significant increase in commercial traffic that will support 36 major B-21 construction projects and develop a plan to minimize the impact on the Raider community.

According to the statement, the 28th BW will receive the first B-21 Raider, a dual-capability penetrating attack stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear missiles, and will conduct global operations with the new aircraft over the next several years.

The base expects the commercial traffic to grow, over the next several years, by more than 400 per cent in support of new construction projects.

In February, Maj Gen Jason R. Armagost, who serves as the director of operations and communications of the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said that Six Northrop Grumman B-21 Raiders are being manufactured at Plant 42 in California, and the first bomber will fly this year.

In February, Maj Gen Jason R. Armagost, the Air Force Global Strike Command’s (AFGSC) director of operations and communications, announced that six Northrop Grumman B-21 Raiders are being produced at Plant 42 in California, with the first bomber flying this year.

He said that broad usage of “digital engineering” allows quick advancement. According to him, the six bombers are demonstrations and prototypes for the B-21 program’s research and development phase.

The B-21 Raider program

The US Air Force expects to spend about $20 billion to produce the new B-21 Raider strategic stealth bomber by the end of the fiscal year 2027. However, the exact number of planes planned for construction is still unknown. 

The B-21 Raider came about after the B-21 Next Generation Bomber predecessor project was cancelled because Pentagon officials deemed it too expensive and its capabilities too “sophisticated.”

The US Air Force believes it will need a fleet of 225 strategic bombers in the future. They currently operate a fleet of about 158 strategic bombers, of which 62 are Rockwell B-1 Lancer, 20 are B-2 Spirit, and 76 are B-52H Stratofortress.

Artist impression of B-21 Raider
Artist impression of B-21 Raider. Image: Northrop Grummen

The B-21 was named “Raider” in honour of the pilots – members of the Doolittle raid, who made the first air raid on the Japanese islands during the Second World War. It is intended to replace the B-1 and B-2, as the B-52H will remain in service until at least the 2040s and possibly into the 2050s.

The new “strategic bomber” was created as part of the Long Range Strike Bomber program. It is stated that it will have a very long range, capable of carrying a significant bomb load from conventional and nuclear weapons. It was reported that the US Air Force plans to receive at least 149 Riders.

The US Air Force said early versions of the B-21, while intended for testing, would nevertheless be “usable assets” available for combat. Six B-21s are currently under construction at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility.

The Air Force has decided to keep secret the number of planes they plan to buy for the amount requested from the government. At the start of the B-21 program, the cost of the bomber in 2010 was capped at $550 million.

At current prices, this could be about 800 million US dollars. This figure was supposed to be the average unit cost of a bomber with a series of about 100 aircraft. According to the Air Force, compliance with the price cap was recognized as a “critical parameter” of the program.

Based on estimates of production costs, Frontier India predicts that the US Air Force could buy two to three B-21s in the fiscal year 2023, almost five in the fiscal year 2024, six in the fiscal year 2025, and six to seven per year after, or just over 20 over a five-year period. These numbers roughly match the original B-21 contract, which calls for 21 aircraft to be built in the first five series.

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