Back to the Future Bomber

Ending years of speculation, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James unveiled the designation and an artist’s concept of the service’s Long-Range Strike Bomber at AWS16. Designated the B-21—senior service leaders said the nomenclature is meant to evoke “21st century”—the flying-wing design aircraft bears a striking resemblance to Northrop’s original, circa 1980 design for the B-2, before a costly redesign was needed to strengthen the tail with additional “sawtooth” edges. The image James showed revealed more angular air intakes than on the B-2; the exhaust area was not depicted. It was not possible to determine the aircraft’s angle of sweep or size, and senior service officials said they are not yet ready to divulge the size of the aircraft or its particulars. James did not reveal any of Northrop Grumman’s industrial teammates on the B-21, either, but senior service leaders said such information will be revealed in the coming weeks, after congressional briefings have been made. James said the B-21 is emblematic of the Air Force’s intention to lead the Pentagon’s so-called “third offset” with innovative new technologies. Northrop Grumman spokesman Tim Paynter said the company is “proud to serve as the prime contractor for the B-21 bomber, in partnership with the US Air Force, to deliver a capability that is vital to our national security.” He deferred any further questions to the Air Force.