US Air Force's (USAF) upcoming B-21 Raider, a Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), will have drone capabilities in addition to its manned or pilot modes. It will also be capable of carrying out nuclear strikes.
This informationcomes after a heavily redacted DOD OIG Report was acquired by The Drive (TD) through the Freedom of Information Act and they then sifted through a lot data to fish out a few major revelations about the aircraft that is creating a lot of hype around itself.
There were reports that security advisers had recommended that President Donald Trump start using a Raider to travel instead of the Air Force One earlier this year.
There is not a lot that is known about the USAF B-21 Raider apart from the fact that it has stealth capabilities and that it sports a wedge design reminiscent of the B-2 Spirit bomber and that the contract to build it was handed to Northrup Grumman two years ago, notes TD.
However, there have been speculations galore. Flexing wings that have no flaps, a kinetic missile defence system and such futuristic technologies were all touted to be a part of the B-21 Raider. However, none of them have been confirmed.
That is one of the reasons why this find is special. It is possible that the B-12 could be a drone fighter if needed. Language in the document alludes to an optionally unmanned feature. A letter from the secretary of defence, as quoted by TD reads, "I direct the Air Force to develop an acquisition program that delivers a survivable long range penetrating bomber capable of manned and unmanned operations where range, payload, and survivability are balanced with production cost..."
This, according to TD is in contrast to what was first believed about the aircraft. It was thought that USAF would give it unmanned, or drone capabilities only in the later years of its operation. B-21, however, will be designed with unmanned operations in mind, so it is likely to have these capabilities from the get-go.
The Raider will also not be just a bomber and it could perform as a multi-functional, intelligence gathering and networking platform. Considering its speculated operational altitude, the report says that its non-kinetic functions — non war-fighting functions — could be just as important as its bombing abilities.
Another important feature that is now confirmed in the redacted document is the B-21's nuclear functions. An excerpt from the audit as quoted by TD reads, "Nuclear Capability. According to the acquisition strategy, the baseline capability will include all hardware and software necessary to make the LRS-B capable of carrying (i.e. loading, carrying, releasing, initializing, authorizing, and pre-arming) the B61-12 nuclear weapon."