B21 Missile truck

nightsight971

New Member
The B21 will debut soon. I hear it is smaller than the B2, two engines instead of 4, and carries 30,000 pounds instead of 60,000. I imagine it makes it more stealthy. I can envision an unseen B21 loaded with air to air missiles dominating a wide area in lieu of of F22's or the new fighter. Does the Air Force see the potential of a B21 missile truck?
 

spoz

The Bunker Group
Which Air Force? If it's the USAF, possibly. If it's anybody else's I think the mods believe that any discussion of B21 transfers is fantasy fleet stuff.

However, it would seem more likely that the USAF will use it as a AD penetrator with the intent of attacking the AD system or some other ground based target. While you might be able to use such an aircraft BVR, the problem with that is BVR can become visual and it's probably not an aircraft you would want to involve in close range manoeuvering with an opponent fighter.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
The B21 will debut soon. I hear it is smaller than the B2, two engines instead of 4, and carries 30,000 pounds instead of 60,000. I imagine it makes it more stealthy. I can envision an unseen B21 loaded with air to air missiles dominating a wide area in lieu of of F22's or the new fighter. Does the Air Force see the potential of a B21 missile truck?
Have you considered what systems the B-21 Raider would likely be designed with at least initially? And what additional/different systems would likely be needed to effectively utilize air-to-air missiles?

As I understand it currently, the B-21 Raider is to fulfill mission sets which are currently covered by the B-1B Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit. A short way of describing this would be bomb truck and LO penetrator/strike. Among other things, this would suggest that while the B-21 is planned to have a payload of up to 30,000 lbs of bombs, that would not likely translate into 30,000 lbs of missiles. Instead, any missiles carried would likely be limited by the number of hardpoints and/or dispensers which would fit within the ordnance bay.

Another, and IMO likely major issue, would be that the avionics fitout for a combat aircraft with a strategic/strike role can be very different from an interceptor/fighter/air combat role. Any B-21 Raider which had been so re-configured would need to either receive targeting data from offboard systems (requiring a datalink) or have onboard systems able to collect target quality data. AFAIK, there are no current plans to fit the B-21 Raider with a radar like the APG-77, APG-79, or APG-81. Apart from the likely difficulty designing a fighter-type radar to fit into the anticipated aircraft shape of the B-21, there would be the potential for the radar fitted to reduce the LO qualities of the B-21, or to potential broadcasting the B-21's position when the radar is on.

Given that the B-21 Raider is already supposed to have a targeted price of ~USD$500 mil. each, spending more funding to design a new variant with a significantly different role and therefore requiring rather different onboard systems, does not IMO make sense.
 

old faithful

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
On that subject, couldn't a wedgetail control a few loyal wingmen a couple of hundred km away and the LW be armed with bvr?
 

pkcasimir

Member
The B21 will debut soon. I hear it is smaller than the B2, two engines instead of 4, and carries 30,000 pounds instead of 60,000. I imagine it makes it more stealthy. I can envision an unseen B21 loaded with air to air missiles dominating a wide area in lieu of of F22's or the new fighter. Does the Air Force see the potential of a B21 missile truck?
The US Air Force has already demonstrated that it can use the C-17 as an arsenal plane (USAF terminology) and plans to keep 76 B-52s after retirement of the B-1 and B-2. Why would the Air Force spend the money to convert the B-21 to a "missile truck" when it has better alternatives and has no deep penetration bombers for hard targets other than the B-21?
 

pkcasimir

Member
Isn't the point of a bomber to be a missile truck as compared to standard fighters?
The purpose of a B-1, B-2, or B-21 is deep penetration of enemy defenses to take out hard targets or to deliver nuclear weapons, not to be missile trucks. A B-2 has an unrefueled range of 9,000 nautical miles.
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
The purpose of a B-1, B-2, or B-21 is deep penetration of enemy defenses to take out hard targets or to deliver nuclear weapons, not to be missile trucks. A B-2 has an unrefueled range of 9,000 nautical miles.
A B-2, sure. In its early days. Today it is less equipped for this task, as well as any future stealth bomber including B-21, than any 5th gen (or future) jet, as these are also designed to maximize capabilities that include operation in contested airspace. This is because such fighter jets are equipped with both their on-board sensors, and potential additional sensors as payload, and their typically larger numbers and more versatile munitions make them more survivable against a wider range of threats.
Plus, bombers of any type are large, and although properly equipped versus radars, they are easier to detect via other means.

As 5th generation stealth fighters become more prolific, and 6th gen begin to emerge, the niche of bombers will likely shift to mainly being bomb trucks that carry very heavy munitions that are too large for a standard fighter.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
A B-2, sure. In its early days. Today it is less equipped for this task, as well as any future stealth bomber including B-21, than any 5th gen (or future) jet, as these are also designed to maximize capabilities that include operation in contested airspace. This is because such fighter jets are equipped with both their on-board sensors, and potential additional sensors as payload, and their typically larger numbers and more versatile munitions make them more survivable against a wider range of threats.
Plus, bombers of any type are large, and although properly equipped versus radars, they are easier to detect via other means.

As 5th generation stealth fighters become more prolific, and 6th gen begin to emerge, the niche of bombers will likely shift to mainly being bomb trucks that carry very heavy munitions that are too large for a standard fighter.
Umm... What? Care to explain how a fighter-sized aircraft is going to manage the kinds of ranges that US strategic bombers routinely conduct missions at?
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
Not ranges, certainly. That is one parameter they lack. However within the given range, they have either equal tools for the job, or better.
We should also take into account the recent development of stealth fighter-sized refueling aircraft (MQ-25), and manned-unmanned teaming allowing a manned aircraft to use sensors remotely in areas of interest.

Evidence of this shift in bomber missions is the fact the B-1 is getting retired, and B-2 will retire sooner than the B-52.
We also see frequent mission changes in systems very early on in their operational lives.
We can't know for sure what the main missions of the B-21 will be in its early years in operational duty, but we do know that deep penetration is now shared with other assets.
 

pkcasimir

Member
Not ranges, certainly. That is one parameter they lack. However within the given range, they have either equal tools for the job, or better.
We should also take into account the recent development of stealth fighter-sized refueling aircraft (MQ-25), and manned-unmanned teaming allowing a manned aircraft to use sensors remotely in areas of interest.

Evidence of this shift in bomber missions is the fact the B-1 is getting retired, and B-2 will retire sooner than the B-52.
We also see frequent mission changes in systems very early on in their operational lives.
We can't know for sure what the main missions of the B-21 will be in its early years in operational duty, but we do know that deep penetration is now shared with other assets.
The retirement of the B-1 has nothing to do with changing missions of US strategic bombers. They are being retired because they are worn out and past their service life. The B-2 is being retired because the B-21 will replace it. The B-52 isn't because it's impossible to replace it. You may not know what the mission of the B-21 is but the US Air Force does and it is deep penetration missions to take out hard targets or to drop nuclear weapons.
There are no airplanes other than the bombers that the the US Air Force can use for deep penetration other than the bombers. Quite frankly, you just don't what you are what you are talking about. Fighters aren't designed for and don't have the range or capability to penetrate deep into enemy territory.
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
The retirement of the B-1 has nothing to do with changing missions of US strategic bombers. They are being retired because they are worn out and past their service life. The B-2 is being retired because the B-21 will replace it. The B-52 isn't because it's impossible to replace it. You may not know what the mission of the B-21 is but the US Air Force does and it is deep penetration missions to take out hard targets or to drop nuclear weapons.
There are no airplanes other than the bombers that the the US Air Force can use for deep penetration other than the bombers. Quite frankly, you just don't what you are what you are talking about. Fighters aren't designed for and don't have the range or capability to penetrate deep into enemy territory.
Of course, but the B-52 is worn out as well. And when the USAF looks at what they want to keep upgrading to stay in service, it's clear they prefer the B-52 which is the oldest of the bunch.

They now carry outsized payloads that no fighter can carry, so there may be more than one general mission set for bombers.

I may not know what I'm talking about here. That may be true. But from the side it certainly looks like the B-2 brought to the table the range of a bomber and novel, still experimental stealth tech that none could realistically make available to a fighter.
But now it seems it only brings range, which is a return to the same equation we previously had.
To get to where the B-2 got us in its early years of service, the B-21 needs to have some groundbreaking tech we haven't heard of yet.

I do know the B-21 has other missions than merely deep penetration. It is to be a battle manager, will do recon, and more missions that might exploit its long endurance and size.
The 6th gen PCA - Penetrating Counter Air, a fighter, also has the mission of deep penetration, and accompaniment of the B-21. Apparently USAF sees the need to escort the B-21.
If you'll argue the PCA is only a future project, to that I'll say so is the B-21. And the necessity of a PCA is not yet clear enough to match its date of service with the B-21.

In the topic of aviation, I am just a tier below enthusiast. But I am attentive. If you have a solid argument, do share. I just don't think you're conveying it convincingly enough.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Of course, but the B-52 is worn out as well. And when the USAF looks at what they want to keep upgrading to stay in service, it's clear they prefer the B-52 which is the oldest of the bunch.

They now carry outsized payloads that no fighter can carry, so there may be more than one general mission set for bombers.

I may not know what I'm talking about here. That may be true. But from the side it certainly looks like the B-2 brought to the table the range of a bomber and novel, still experimental stealth tech that none could realistically make available to a fighter.
But now it seems it only brings range, which is a return to the same equation we previously had.
To get to where the B-2 got us in its early years of service, the B-21 needs to have some groundbreaking tech we haven't heard of yet.

I do know the B-21 has other missions than merely deep penetration. It is to be a battle manager, will do recon, and more missions that might exploit its long endurance and size.
The 6th gen PCA - Penetrating Counter Air, a fighter, also has the mission of deep penetration, and accompaniment of the B-21. Apparently USAF sees the need to escort the B-21.
If you'll argue the PCA is only a future project, to that I'll say so is the B-21. And the necessity of a PCA is not yet clear enough to match its date of service with the B-21.

In the topic of aviation, I am just a tier below enthusiast. But I am attentive. If you have a solid argument, do share. I just don't think you're conveying it convincingly enough.
I doubt very much that the XB-21 will be anything other than a strategic bomber. There is only one precedence in USAF CONOPS for it to be anything but, especially at the cost. That was the RB-47 and even then it was in limited numbers.

The XB-21 is one leg of the US strategic nuclear triad and as such that is its primary mission. Conventional bombing is its secondary mission. That's it.
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
I doubt very much that the XB-21 will be anything other than a strategic bomber. There is only one precedence in USAF CONOPS for it to be anything but, especially at the cost. That was the RB-47 and even then it was in limited numbers.

The XB-21 is one leg of the US strategic nuclear triad and as such that is its primary mission. Conventional bombing is its secondary mission. That's it.
I think this is the article that set my opinion on the B-21 as a non-traditional bomber.

From 2015 but I haven't seen anything since then that contradicts it.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I think this is the article that set my opinion on the B-21 as a non-traditional bomber.

From 2015 but I haven't seen anything since then that contradicts it.
Hopefully many of these capabilities are realized with the production version of the B-21. Good to see how low the negativity noise is for the Raider program. I guess the ultra secrecy helps.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I think this is the article that set my opinion on the B-21 as a non-traditional bomber.

From 2015 but I haven't seen anything since then that contradicts it.
Interesting, possible, but we'll see. A lot's happened in the last 6 years and the USAF isn't so keen on multi-roling every platform now because whilst it can have advantages it also has disadvantages and they've been finding out about that the hard way with the F-35 program.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
Hopefully many of these capabilities are realized with the production version of the B-21. Good to see how low the negativity noise is for the Raider program. I guess the ultra secrecy helps.
I honestly would not set too much on the article itself. It was published just over a year before the B-21 was named the Raider, and about five months before it was revealed to be designated as the B-21. With the article mentioning a designation dubbed as the "B-3"...

There are also a few potential issues with trying to fit and then operate in contested airspace, some of the ISR systems the article suggested. Any active sensor that a B-21 might operate in a contested environment could end up broadcasting the aircraft's position. So too could any comlink, data link, or comms system broadcasting from a B-21 to relay targeting data. It would make very little sense to send in a LO strike aircraft available in limited numbers to conduct a delaminating strike in contested airspace, while also having it broadcasting across the EM spectrum to collect and then relay data to other assets.
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
Multi-roling was a really hard decision decades ago, and we hear about said difficulties because we're naturally still rolling with old platforms.
Usually added roles meant added kit, meaning added weight and reduced space. Today much of the existing kit can be made very multipurpose.

A single radar system today can detect objects, take photos (SAR), intercept comms, and be a powerful EW weapon.
Some roles can be added on some types of equipment with merely a software update.


I honestly would not set too much on the article itself. It was published just over a year before the B-21 was named the Raider, and about five months before it was revealed to be designated as the B-21. With the article mentioning a designation dubbed as the "B-3"...
True, but even at that point it was way after the wish list of capabilities and missions was due.

There are also a few potential issues with trying to fit and then operate in contested airspace, some of the ISR systems the article suggested. Any active sensor that a B-21 might operate in a contested environment could end up broadcasting the aircraft's position. So too could any comlink, data link, or comms system broadcasting from a B-21 to relay targeting data. It would make very little sense to send in a LO strike aircraft available in limited numbers to conduct a delaminating strike in contested airspace, while also having it broadcasting across the EM spectrum to collect and then relay data to other assets.
Makes sense, but with a fleet of 100, potentially 200, it would not be too scarce.
Nuclear strike is its top reason to exist, but an aircraft like the B-21 presents capabilities far too crucial to leave it only doing nuclear deterrence. Especially with such a large fleet.

Long range does not mean the most efficient exploitation of the B-21 is long distance flights. It can loiter for a long time with that fuel.

Putting yet another stealthy aircraft type in the arsenal is sure to give enough added flexibility that it'll very soon find non-strike missions, or many conventional strike ones.
 

nightsight971

New Member
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I have seen simulation videos of B1's carrying numerous air to air missiles to shoot targets identified by F35's. The new F15ex is going to perform in this role as well. A stealthy B21 doing this seems like the perfect air to air domination the air force is looking for.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I have seen simulation videos of B1's carrying numerous air to air missiles to shoot targets identified by F35's. The new F15ex is going to perform in this role as well. A stealthy B21 doing this seems like the perfect air to air domination the air force is looking for.
Umm have you read what has been posted above? If you have seen video simulations of the B1 carrying AAM how about posting a link to the videos so that the rest of us can have a look. We'd be quite interested.
 
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