BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - It's been more than 30 years since the U.S. Air Force has introduced a new bomber to the fleet, but that will soon change.
Teams are now working with aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman to develop the B-21A Raider-- a high tech aircraft with modern stealth capabilities.
"The enemy gets a vote, so as their capabilities improve and increase, we need to counter those," explained Howard Kosht, executive director of Air Force
Global Strike Strategic Plans, Programs and Requirements.
"We are very excited to get the B-21," Kosht said. "We need it and we need more of them, because keeping a small fleet flying is very tough, because you don't have as many aircraft, you have diminishing vendors, you have age-out issues, so it will be very nice to get this new capability and keep that one around for quite a long time."
While much of the B-21 is classified, designers say its wing is similar to the B-2.
"The B-2 was built in the 1980s and of course we didn't buy as many as we had hoped to — we have 20."
Kosht says the B-21s will help keep their mission effective and competitive but don't expect to see them in the skies anytime soon.
"It's still in the design phase and they have milestones to meet for each of those, and when they start providing those, hopefully, it won't be too much longer before they start moving a little faster," Kosht said.
The overall development cost of the B-21 is an estimated $22 billion, and Air Force officials haven't decided which base or bases will house them.
As for the battle-tested B-52s seen at Barksdale, Air Force leaders say there's still plenty of life in the iconic jet.
"The B-52 we are planning to keep 2050, it has the best bones of any aircraft," explained Kosht. "We've been doing modernization with it, it is the one we have the most of, we have 76 B-52s, and it can get us out to 2050. So right now the plan is to have B-21s and B-52s in the foreseeable future."