The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman are developing a heavy long-range stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider. He should enter the service, at least according to current estimates, in the years 2026–2027. For the time being, it should supplement and eventually replace today’s Rockwell B-1 Lancer, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress star bombers in the US Air Force.
In fact, the Raider is already struggling to survive. The US Air Force is facing a lack of funding and a number of ambitious programs are threatening to tighten their taps or even cancel them. It may sound a little strange, but the Raider bomber could now save the drones before it can be assigned to the Air Force.
The point is that multi-purpose military aircraft are not only useful in combat, but are also more cost-effective in peacetime. According to the new ideas, the Raider should be not only a classic strategic bomber with conventional or nuclear weapons, but also a parent and control aircraft for drones, which would lead to various missions. This step should secure funding for the Raider program and a position in aviation planning in the future.
How should it work?
According to Frank Kendall of the US Air Force Raider, he will probably not release drones in flight. He should lead a group of drones that take off from ground bases and join the Raider. After the mission, the drones will land by themselves again.
For a stealth aircraft, it would be technically complicated to carry drones on board, where they would occupy valuable space, or under the wings, where they would worsen stealth characteristics. If the Raider carries his own weapons, it will further increase the firepower of such a group, the bomber in the role of leader of the flock of drones.
A group of this type could overwhelm the enemy’s air defenses and overwhelmingly attack a larger number of targets at the same time, in addition, deployed over a relatively large area.
The US Air Force intends to buy at least 100 Raiders. At the same time, there are rumors that they would like 220 of them. When the new bombers are multi-purpose, it improves the chances of the Air Force that they will be able to buy more. In addition to leading flocks of drones, they could also lay sophisticated naval mines, such as the Quickstrike ER, which could be useful in a possible hot conflict in East Asia.