Northrop Grumman Corporation has begun assembling five new generation B-21 Raider strategic bombers, which the American media calls the main threat to the Russian S-400 and S-500 anti-aircraft missile systems. Gazeta.Ru was trying to figure out why the United States needs a new generation bomber and whether it is really that dangerous for Russian air defense systems.
“As I deliver my speech, five B-21 aircraft are being assembled that will be used for testing at the Palmdale, California facility,” Defense News quoted US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall as speaking at an Association conference in support of American Air Force.
Popular Mechanics called the B-21 “the killer of Russian S-400 air defense systems,” and The National Interest reported that the plane would be “invulnerable to Russian S-500 systems.” The B-21 will be able to carry conventional and nuclear weapons on board. It can be equipped with Joint Directed Attack Munition ammunition and AGM-158 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile missiles, as well as B83 and B61-12 nuclear bombs.
The Pentagon signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to develop B-21 bombers in 2015. It is assumed that the Ministry of Defense will purchase 100 of these machines. The US military expects that the Raider will be adopted in the mid-2020s.
The first flight of the B-21 bomber was scheduled for December 2021, but it was postponed to mid-2022. The technical characteristics of the aircraft have not yet been disclosed in official sources.
During the creation of the bomber, the United States Air Force published three of its official images, the last one in July this year. The aircraft is captured in front of the Edwards base, where its first flight tests will take place.
“The B-21 should replace the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit. It is assumed that the number of B-21s will be much larger, and these bombers will be the main ones that are capable of carrying cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, ”Alexei Leonkov , editor of the magazine“ Arsenal of the Fatherland ”, a military expert, told Gazeta.Ru . – At the same time, in terms of its characteristics, the B-21 will be less noticeable than the B-2, and more distant in flight, but the aerodynamic scheme in it will be the same – a flying wing. The program for its creation has been going on for a long time, the terms have been shifted, but the Americans do not lose hope that they will succeed in the bomber ”.
Major General of the Air Force, retired, ex-head of the Federal Directorate of Aerospace Search and Rescue under the Ministry of Defense, Vladimir Popov, believes that the US long-range strategic aviation fleet is becoming obsolete and this requires more active work – hence the need for new bombers.
“The same B-52s can be used very limited precisely because of their age, they have been in service since 1955,” Popov pointed out.
The special ability of the B-21 Raider to destroy Russian air defense systems caused a skeptical assessment of the experts interviewed by Gazeta.Ru.
According to the deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis Alexander Khramchikhin, any anti-aircraft missile systems can be destroyed from the air by “anything”.
“The B-21 bomber can also destroy the S-400 or S-500 complex. But that depends on the tactical situation. Any attack aircraft can destroy these complexes if the system is not turned on or there is a passage. You need to be able to competently operate equipment. For example, due to illiterate exploitation, the Armenian S-300 suffered during the war in Karabakh, ”the expert said.
Alexey Leonkov, in turn, considers the statements about the new capabilities that the B-21 has in the confrontation with the Russian air defense systems, unconfirmed.
“The statements that the B-21 will easily cope with our S-400 and S-500 complexes are unfounded. Separately, our air defense systems do not work, they always operate in conjunction with other means, the main task of which is to cover long-range complexes. And here it will be difficult to cope, ”argues Leonkov.
The Americans calculated military operations with the participation of the Air Force, in which the B-21 bombers were to play a key role. It turned out that the bomber cannot fulfill its task on its own without the support of other branches and types of troops, the expert noted.
“That is, there must be various missile tactical complexes, strike complexes of the Tomahawk type, in order to hack into the air defense, to provide them with passage. The bomber alone will not accomplish this task. At the same time, the suppression of air defense systems is a secondary task for the B-21. The main one is the destruction of the most important objects of military and civil infrastructure, ”Leonkov explained.
Major General Vladimir Popov agreed that it is premature to talk about its uniqueness and features before publishing at least approximate technical characteristics of the aircraft.