Initially, it was believed that the USAF would only give the aircraft unmanned capabilities in the later years of operation. However, the B-21 will now be designed with unmanned operations in mind.
It is rumored that the newest addition to the US Air Force (USAF) will have drone capabilities. This in addition to its manned pilot modes. The upcoming B-21 Raider will be a Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) which will reportedly also be capable of nuclear strikes.
The information was revealed in a Department of Defence (DOD) report which was acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. Some of the data contained in the report revealed why there has been much hype around the release of the new aircraft. There have been many reports that suggest security advisers recommended that President Donald Trump use the B-21 as opposed to Air Force One for travel.
While there is not much which is known about the elusive bomber it has been stated that it will have stealth capabilities and will sport a wedge design similar to that of the B-2 Spirit bomber. It is also rumored that the contract to build the aircraft was awarded to Northrup Grumman some two years ago. There have been many speculations surrounding the B-21.
These include wings that can flex and have no flaps, a missile system run on kinetics and a range of other futuristic functions. But, none of these have been confirmed. Which is exactly why the recently found data is turning many heads in the industry. It may be possible for the B-21 to be used as a drone fighter if needed. Excerpts from the file suggest that the fighter could have an unmanned feature.
According to reports, the file is accompanied by a letter signed by the secretary of defense. In the letter, he is quoted as saying that USAF should develop a programme for a long-range penetrating bomber. He added that the craft should be capable of both manned and unmanned operations. The range and payload along with the survivability should be balanced with production cost.
According to reports, the new data is in contrast to what was first rumored about the B-21 aircraft. Initially, it was believed that the USAF would only give the aircraft unmanned capabilities in the later years of operation. However, the B-21 will now be designed with unmanned operations in mind. This means it is likely to have these capabilities from the onset. And, the aircraft will not only be a bomber, it will also be able to perform intelligence gathering and serve as a networking platform.
Keeping in mind the aircrafts speculated operational altitude according to the report that non-kinetic functions, as well as the non-war-fighting functions, may be just as relevant as its bombing abilities. Among the information contained in the document are the nuclear functions of the B-21.
According to an audit contained in the document, the aircraft will have all the necessary hardware as well as software to make it capable of not only loading but also carrying and initializing the B61-12 nuclear weapon.