The B-21 Raider Can't Win a War Against 'Math'

B-21 Raider

The B-21 Raider Can't Win a War Against 'Math'

The U.S. Air Force's new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, is an advanced aircraft with sci-fi-like capabilities. However, the planned fleet of at least 100 bombers is insufficient given the rising threats from China, Russia, and Iran.

Summary: The U.S. Air Force's new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, is an advanced aircraft with sci-fi-like capabilities. However, the planned fleet of at least 100 bombers is insufficient given the rising threats from China, Russia, and Iran.

B-21 Raider

Key Points: 

-To achieve the strategic impact necessary to deter these adversaries, the Air Force needs at least 300 B-21 Raiders. The current plan risks leaving the U.S. unprepared for simultaneous conflicts in multiple regions.

-This shortfall highlights the inefficiencies and challenges within America's defense industrial base, drawing parallels to pre-WWII Britain and France's decline, and raises concerns about maintaining U.S. military supremacy.

The Air Force Doesn’t Have Enough B-21 Raiders to Win a War

The U.S. Air Force has the best new stealth bomber on Earth, the B-21 Raider. Unveiled in a rare public event above the skies of Edwards Air Force Base last November, the unique, triangular bird with gray composite skin looked like something from the Halo video game series. 

Indeed, the B-21 has many sci-fi-like features and capabilities that lend to the perception that it is the best stealth bomber flying the unfriendly skies.

The Air Force plans to build at least 100 of these bombers. While that is a respectable number, it is not enough, considering the kind and level of threat the United States is currently facing. 

As I first wrote in these pages months ago, for the B-21 to have the strategic effect that its designers intend, the Air Force must procure at least 300 units. And they must do so relatively quickly as threats from China, Russia, and Iran intensify. 

Maya Carlin analyzed that with only 100 units of the B-21 Raider available (they have not yet been built, mind you), these birds “cannot be everywhere.” 

For a mere 100 or so units of the B-21 to have their desired strategic impact, the bulk of them would have to focus on one theater of operations. 

Which theater would that be?

The Geopolitical Disorder and the B-21 

The world is plagued by three major conflicts. There’s the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War in Europe, the Iran-Israel proxy war in the Middle East, and the rising tensions between China and its neighbors, notably Taiwan, in the Indo-Pacific. Other potential conflicts simmer – don’t forget the possibility that Venezuela could invade neighboring Guyana soon, destabilizing the United States’ already fragile backyard. 

Where will the B-21 go? And in the event of a great power war between the United States and Russia or China – wars that would be waged in those countries’ regions – how might the B-21 move around in a contested environment where things like refueling tanker planes are at risk of being destroyed and America’s airfields might be hit in the opening salvos of the conflict?

With at least 300 B-21s, the United States can deploy the Raider to each of these regions and have them on-site, ready to roll, at the drop of the first enemy bomb. What’s more, if America’s rivals know that the United States possesses 300 or more of these birds, they might be deterred from initiating any hostilities at all. 

America’s Defense Industrial Base is Broken

Here again, America’s inefficient, byzantine defense bureaucracy meets the country’s sclerotic defense industrial base to yield a truly awful result: The B-21 is America’s next main bomber. And there won’t be enough of them. 

The U.S. increasingly looks like France or Britain before the Second World War. It rides high on its legacy as a great military power, but in reality it is a declining power about to be pushed out by far more dynamic rising rivals ready to aggressively challenge its hold on the world system.

The failure to reliably build enough B-21 Raiders is yet another sad symptom of a disease that could soon prove terminal. 

B-21 Raider Photo Gallery 

B-21 Raider

B-21 Raider

B-21 Raider

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.