Selling the B-21 Raider would be a big mistake

Summary and key points:

-The suggestion to export B-21 Raider technologies to allies is considered reckless due to the significant risks to US national security.

The B-21 introduces advanced stealth and networking technologies that should remain unique to the United States to maintain its strategic deterrence and technological advantage.

Raider B-21.  Industry brochure.

B-21 Raider

Sharing such sensitive technologies could lead to potential theft by adversaries such as China and Russia, undermining US military advantages.

The Pentagon must protect the capabilities of the B-21 to ensure the effectiveness of its nuclear triad and overall national security.

Do not sell the B-21 Raider to anyone

The suggestion that the United States should share or export with its allies the highly sensitive technologies embedded in the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber could be considered reckless and potentially even irresponsible.

While there may surely be financial and security-related advantages to exporting the B-21 and building an allied coalition with stealth bombing capability, the risks to US national security appear extremely significant. No part of the highly sophisticated B-21 “black” program should leave the US under any circumstances, as the very survival of the US arguably depends on a secure, established and unparalleled capability to hold any target at risk. , anywhere in the world. , whenever.

Senior Air Force leaders have been clear for years that the platform introduces a new generation of stealth, computing, sensing and networking technology. For obvious security reasons, these should remain exclusive to the United States.

B-21 Raider

B-21 Raider stealth bomber. Image credit: Creative Commons image of modified US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber.

Of course, there is great added value in allied cooperation and joint multinational development programs, both for economic and security reasons, but something like the B-21 would seem too risk-sensitive either way.

B-21 Raider for sale?

One could draw parallels to the growing and impactful global F-35 alliance and argue that it would be beneficial to American interests to cultivate a networked multinational allied stealth bomber force, but there are many reasons to doubt or view that concept with disdain. skepticism.

While the F-35 clearly contains unique, highly sensitive technologies, some of which are likely not available for public consumption, the almost completely “black” B-21 program likely involves an entirely new generation of unique and sensitive stealth technologies.

There is widespread consensus and documented concern that the Chinese have stolen the F-35’s specifications and technologies. Does the United States want to take a similar risk with something like the B-21? While no details are available, the B-21 is a platform that can bring an unprecedented advantage to the United States’ deterrence, posture and stealth strike capabilities.

This would highlight the importance of securing and protecting its sensitive technologies to ensure that any benefits it provides remain unique to the United States and are not vulnerable to theft by great power adversaries.

Preserving a stealth advantage is particularly critical given the extent to which Russian and Chinese air defenses have evolved with a reported ability to track some stealth platforms. Russian-built defenses, such as the S-400 and S-500, are increasingly interconnected, longer range, more accurate and capable of detecting aircraft over a wider range of frequencies.

That’s why, for example, the Pentagon is upgrading the B-2 with advanced sensors called the Defensive Management System, designed to help crews locate and therefore avoid advanced air defense systems.

Artist's image of the B-2 Spirit.  The B-21 Raider will have a similar look.

Artist’s image of the B-2 Spirit. The B-21 Raider will have a similar look.

Given all this, if the B-21 incorporates technologies that provide a unique and unparalleled stealth technological advantage, the Pentagon would do well to do everything it can to protect and safeguard the advantage for its own national security.

Finally, it would seem difficult to design an acceptable “export” variant of the B-21 as is done with many American systems such as the Abrams tank or the F-16 fighter because many of the B-21’s technologies are likely almost entirely new. and potentially paradigm-transforming.


Image of the B-2 bomber. Image credit: Creative Commons.

Added to this equation is the key element that the Pentagon’s stealth bomber fleet contributes as the aerial part of the nation’s nuclear triad. The ability to keep a high-power, nuclear-capable adversary at risk through a secretive and stealthy nuclear airstrike is an irreplaceable element of the Pentagon’s deterrence posture. In a scenario where nuclear-armed submarines or intercontinental ballistic missiles are unavailable or disabled by an adversary in a nuclear confrontation, a capable air branch of the nuclear triad could ensure American survival.

The B-21 must not be shared with any ally, under any circumstances and for any reason.

About the author: Kris Osborn

Kris Osborn is the military affairs editor of 19FortyFive and president of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously worked at the Pentagon as a highly qualified expert in the Office of the Under Secretary of the Army: Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn has also worked as a host and on-air military specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.