The Department of Defense is developing a new long-range bomber aircraft, the B-21 Raider (previously known as LRS-B), and proposes to acquire at least 100 of them. B-21s would initially replace the fleets of B-1 and B-2 bombers, and could possibly replace B-52s in the future.
B-21 development was highly classified until the summer of 2015, when the Air Force revealed initial details of the aircraft and the program. Although technical specifications and other data remain out of public view, many details of the budget, acquisition strategy, procurement quantities, and other aspects of the B-21 program are now in the public arena.
The Administration’s FY2020 budget request included $3.0 billion for further development of the B-21. As passed, the FY2019 defense appropriations bill funded the program at $2.28 billion.
As a large defense program that involves issues of strategic and nuclear policy, as well as substantial expenditures, the B-21 is likely to be subject to significant congressional interest.
On October 27, 2015, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced its intention to award a contract to build the new Long-Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) to the Northrop Grumman Corporation. Subsequently, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that the bomber would be designated the B-21 “Raider,” in honor of the Doolittle Raiders of World War II.
The B-21 is intended to operate in both conventional and nuclear roles, with the capability of penetrating and surviving in advanced air defense environments. It will be capable of operation by an onboard crew or piloted remotely. It is projected to enter service in the 2020s, building to an initial fleet of 100 aircraft. B-21s will be based at Dyess AFB, TX; Whiteman AFB, MO; and Ellsworth AFB, SD.
The B-21 is one of the Air Force’s top three procurement priorities.
Click here for the full report (17 PDF pages), on the CRS website.