What If the New B-21 Stealth Bomber Could Also Fight Other Aircraft?

Robert Farley

Key point: Washington wants a high-tech strategic bomber to penetrate enemy airspace. But part of that mission arguably should include the ability to shoot down enemy fighters.

Recent reports about the B-21 Raider suggest that the plane might have a mission that U.S. bombers have not had for a very long time: air-to-air combat. If the Air Force continues to pursue this line of thought, it will revive a concept that dominated airpower theory in the early age of aviation, but that fell by the wayside because of technological and operational concerns in the 1950s and 1960s. However, it remains to be seen whether the idea of a B-21 “battleplane” is practical, or simply the bureaucratic answer to critical concerns about the bomber’s survivability.


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