B-21 will be replaced if it cannot handle emerging capabilities.

The B-21 bomber will be retired if it cannot adapt to new technologies. As a result, the B-21’s future is in jeopardy even before it has through all necessary tests and gone into mass production. Northrup Grumman is still working on perfecting this strategic aircraft.

During his testimony to US lawmakers in mid-April, the Pentagon’s readiness to address potential bomber failures was affirmed by Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs.

China’s growing capabilities have become a significant concern. Analysts in the Asia-Pacific region suggest that the US is making preparations for a strike force comprising B-52 Stratofortresses and B-21 Raider bombers. The B-52s would operate from a distance, while the B-21s would undertake missions in contested environments, closer to or deep within enemy territory.

Lt. Gen. Moore acknowledged the possibility of the B-21 being replaced, highlighting that the Pentagon has taken such actions in the past. He referenced the cancellation of the new refueling system program as an example due to evolving threats.

The uncertainty surrounding the B-21’s ability to match China’s modern warfighting capabilities poses a hidden threat to the military budget. While the US intends to construct a minimum of 100 B-21 bombers, some experts argue that Washington would require at least double that number, ranging from 200 to 230, to counter Beijing’s forces effectively.

B-21 will be replaced if it cannot handle emerging capabilities.

Mark Gunzinger, a retired USAF colonel, shares the opinion that Washington should have 225 B-21 bombers as part of a larger bomber fleet of 300, including B-1 and B-52 aircraft, to counter China successfully.

There are ongoing efforts to upgrade the B-1 Lancer, with plans to equip it with new pylons that will enable it to carry a significantly larger payload. Rumors suggest the possibility of the B-1 carrying a hypersonic weapon.

In a potential conflict with China, the success of the American mission would rely heavily on the capabilities of the B-21 bombers rather than cruise or ballistic missiles or fighter jets.

 If the B-21 proves capable of deep penetration, it will allow American aircraft carriers to remain at a favorable distance of 1,800-2,700 kilometers from China’s coastline. This range is advantageous for the US Navy, as it falls outside the reach of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles.

The B-21 bomber, with a planned range of 9,600 kilometers and a payload capacity of 10 tons, will face the challenge of defending against China’s deep-located anti-aircraft missile systems. While ships, planes, and submarines cannot engage in continuous combat, the B-21 Raider fleet will be crucial in engaging thousands of enemy targets when other platforms are undergoing refueling in port, which can take weeks.

However, some uncertainties remain unanswered. One such question is whether the US will be able to meet its goal of producing 20 B-21 bombers per year, considering that the current production rate is estimated to be only 8-9 bombers annually, which is half of the desired number.

The availability of sufficient reserves to sustain prolonged bomber operations is a concern raised by Gunzinger. He emphasizes that the US currently lacks an adequate stockpile of depleted bombers to withstand the intensity of a potential conflict, particularly with China.

Weather conditions pose a significant challenge for military operations in the US. If the B-21 fails to counter emerging capabilities effectively, it could potentially necessitate the development of a new bomber design. Lt. Gen. Moore expressed this viewpoint during his speech to lawmakers and highlighted the rapid growth of China’s weapons capabilities.

The B-21 is becoming increasingly important as the primary platform expected to be engaged in a potential war with China. It is anticipated to conduct a significant number of sorties during the conflict.

 Despite not yet undergoing flight tests or entering serial production, the US already considers the B-21 as the cornerstone of American bomber aviation. The concern arises: what if the B-21 proves unable to counter the emerging threats?