On February 26, 2018, US Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James for the first time presented to the general public a draft of the new American "strategist" who would replace the B-2 aircraft. The new bomber was named B-21 (and not B-3), the development of the machine is the company Northrop Grumman, which created the B-2 Spirit aircraft at the end of the last century.
The competition project of the new bomber was held from mid-summer 2014. On October 27, 2018, Northrop Grumman was declared the winner. Her opponent was the tandem of the Boeing and Lockheed Martin companies.
According to the results of the competition, Northrop Grumman received an order for several series of experimental and serial machines (21 units), its amount is estimated at $ 21.4 billion.
Total US Air Force plans to purchase 80-100 of these machines.
This is really a momentous event. Work on the creation of the aircraft started at the beginning of the 2000s, several times this program was threatened with closure due to cessation of funding, but now there is no doubt that the US Air Force will still receive a new strategic bomber.
Previously, this promising car was called the LRS-B (Long Range Strike Bomber), which translates as "long-range strike bomber." The US military is hoping that the first vehicles will arrive in the army at the beginning of the next decade.
The history of the creation of a strategic bomber B-21
About the beginning of the development of a new strategic bomber in the United States started talking back in 2000, that is, almost immediately after the appearance of the B-2 Spirit - the most expensive aircraft in the history of aviation.
The military needed a plane similar to the B-2 Spirit, but using more advanced technology and, most importantly, cheaper than its predecessor. It should be recalled that the price of one B-2 Spirit bomber with equipment is 2.1 billion dollars.
The new project was named 2018 Bomber, the military planned to see the first car in the mid-10s, and adopt it at the end of this decade. However, after a few years, the technical task was changed, the program was called Next-Generation Bomber ("Next-generation bomber"), and giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin joined it.
In 2009, this project was closed, and a new one appeared in its place: Long Range Strike Bomber, better known by the abbreviation LRS-B. It is believed that the new aircraft should be a transitional link to the supersonic machine, which is expected closer in 2030.
B-2 Spirit, without any doubt, can be called a unique aircraft. However, any technique sooner or later becomes obsolete. In addition, the price of this aircraft is such that talk about mass production is not necessary. Yes, and the requirements that are put forward to strategic bombers today differ from the tasks that they faced during the Cold War, when the development of the B-2 began.
Today, strategic bombers can be used not only as carriers of nuclear weapons, but also for aviation support, as a means of delivering high-precision ammunition.
The US military wanted the LRS-B to have a higher level of autonomy, could be on duty in a given area for a long time, could interact with ground forces and was even less visible to enemy radar. In addition, the price of the LRS-B should not exceed $ 550 million.
The new car is unlikely to be a qualitative leap forward (as in the B-2), but, most likely, it will be much more efficient. The LRS-B will use the same technologies on the basis of which B-2 was created. Only on the new aircraft everything should be carried out taking into account the latest technical advances and experience gained in the development and operation of the B-2.
Future plans for a strategic bomber B-21
To build the first LRS-B by 2020 is a very ambitious task, whether the designers of Northrop will cope with it, we will know very soon. Judging by the sketch that Mrs. Lee James provided to journalists, this aircraft is very similar to its predecessor.
It is also made using stealth technology, the aerodynamic design is a flying wing. Probably, the new car will be equipped with the Pratt & Whitney PW9000 engine, which is still being created based on the F135 engine.
Other features of the new machine are not yet known. The B-21 will obviously have a subsonic speed, the developers have chosen low-visibility as the main means of protecting it.
Another intrigue associated with this aircraft is the presence or absence of an unmanned version. Initially, designers were faced with such a task, but it is not known how far they have progressed in the way of its implementation. Most likely, at first we will see a manned version of the B-21, and only then - unmanned. Unless, of course, this program does not cut funding. We will probably see unmanned B-21s in the early thirties.
Unless, of course, the appearance of the war and the role of long-range bombers in it by then do not change too drastically.