The U.S. Air Force announced that the B-21 Raider strategic bomber will replace B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft at three existing bomber bases beginning in the mid-2020s.
The Air Force selected Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota; and Whiteman AFB, Missouri, as reasonable alternatives to host the new B-21 aircraft. Using the current bomber bases will minimize operational impact, reduce overhead, maximize re-use of facilities, and minimize cost, Air Force officials said.
“Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson. “We expect the first B-21 Raider aircraft to be delivered in the mid-2020s.”
Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, and Minot AFB, North Dakota, will continue to host the B-52, which is expected to continue conducting operations through 2050.
“We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.
The Air Force will make its final B-21 basing decision following compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes. That decision is expected in 2019.
Although the first B-21 are expected in the mid-2020s, the Air Force doesn’t plan to retire the existing bombers until there are sufficient B-21s to replace them. The Air Force hasn’t determined which location will receive the aircraft first.
Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is a heavy bomber under development by Northrop Grumman for the United States Air Force (USAF).
As part of the Long Range Strike Bomber program (LRS-B), it is to be a very long-range, stealth strategic bomber capable of delivering conventional or thermonuclear weapons
The bomber is expected to enter combat service by 2025. It is to complement existing Rockwell B-1B Lancer, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleets in U.S. service and eventually replace these bombers.