Two Tail Bomber Force: How the B-21 and B-52 Bombers Will Fight for America
The Air Force is consolidating its future bomber force structure by advancing concepts of operations that link an improved B-52 Stratofortress to the new B-21 Raider, combining a decades-old modernized platform with a paradigm-shifting new stealth bomber.
This innovative mix suggests a number of important developments for the Air Force, including the retirement of the B-1B Lancer bomber and the sustainment of the older B-2 Spirit aircraft. Although some improvements are being made to the B-1, such as continued efforts to configure its bomb bay to carry and fire hypersonic weapons, the service plans to phase out the aircraft once a sufficient number of B- 21 will arrive and the B-52 improves its ability to fire hypersonic weapons.
“B-52 modernization efforts are extremely important to strategic deterrence,” said Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, at the Army Association of Warfare Symposium. air 2022 on March 3. “The B-21 is a penetrating daily flyer that we must have, and that will be the preponderance of the bomber force as we come down to a two-tailed force; it and the B-52. That’s what the States United States of America will have as a bombing force.
This dual trajectory will continue the Air Force’s deliberate and carefully analyzed balance of designing new platforms while maintaining, improving, and propelling older, combat-tested platforms like the B-52.
While the B-52 first appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, today’s B-52 is almost an entirely new aircraft. Indeed, the B-52 airframe remains viable despite years of service due to maintenance work, additional support, and the overall strength and quality of the structure itself. In recent years, this reality has inspired the Air Force to add new CONECT digital communications for real-time intelligence; an internal weapons bay to increase the aircraft’s bomb-carrying and attack capability, and the ability to fire hypersonic weapons; and equipping the aircraft with a new engine using more fuel-efficient commercial technology.
While the B-2 stealth bomber will eventually be replaced by the B-21, the Air Force has continued to upgrade the B-2 bomber to help close the gap in bombing strength for years. to come as more and more B-21s are steadily produced. and deployed. This effort is quite significant as it is likely to ensure that the thirty-year-old B-2 Spirit can remain viable and effective against a new generation of air defenses. Although there are only twenty B-2s in the force, the upgraded platform is expected to deliver breakthrough operational capabilities and performance.
For example, the B-2 is designed with a new 1,000 times faster computer processor capable of efficiently collecting and analyzing sensor and targeting data. This will increase the crew’s ability to receive processed data in real time and respond more quickly to incoming intelligence information. The B-2 is also designed with new air defense detection sensors called defensive management systems. This technology will help mitigate the extent to which newer generations of air defenses can track stealth aircraft by identifying the location of enemy air defenses. This allows the aircraft to adjust its trajectory to avoid operating within range of weapons and therefore improves its prospects of preserving stealth characteristics and the element of surprise attack.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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