The United States Air Force (USAF) has announced that Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota is the “preferred location” for the first operational and formal training squadrons for the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range, deep-penetration strategic stealth bomber.

The announcement was made on 27 March and added that B-21 Raider will also be based from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. These bases will follow Ellsworth Air Force Base in housing the B-21 following its introduction into USAF service, which is currently planned for 2025.

“These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21… We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”

Secretary of the US Air Force, Dr. Heather A. Wilson

In a statement released by the USAF, Ellsworth Air Force Base was selected as the first base to operate the B-21 Raider due to its “sufficient space and existing facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact across all three bases.”

Secretary of the USAF, Dr. Heather A. Wilson said: “These three bomber bases are well suited for the B-21… We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases.”

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is set to replace the USAF’s current operational Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bomber and Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit long-range deep-penetration strategic stealth bomber fleets. These aircraft will be retired when a sufficient number of B-21 Raiders are in service to take over the operational commitments of the B-1B and the B-2A.

The USAF is planning to continue operating its venerable Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic heavy bomber fleet until roughly 2050. These aircraft will be remain at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

A final decision is expected to be made on the B-21 Raider’s basing in 2021 as part of the Air Force Strategic Basing Process, which complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and other relevant regulatory planning processes.

More follows…

By Khalem Chapman [13/04/2019]