Rounds signals purpose of B-21 bomber: 'China deterrence weapon'
Defense and congressional officials are hinting at the role the incoming B-21 bomber may have.
This week’s remarks during a military symposium in the Black Hills mark some of the first times an American adversary is mentioned in relation to the next-generation stealth bomber.
The B-21 Raider’s first mission is set for Ellsworth Air Force base in Box Elder. The United States military is expected to purchase at least 100 of the B-21 Raiders.
U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds said six of the nuclear capable bombers are currently under production. He describes the nuclear-capable bomber as most advanced weapons system ever developed.
“It is actually our China deterrence weapon," said Rounds, who sits on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. His rhetoric surrounding the B-21 Raider is some of the first publicly directed at a specific country.
“We have the ability to let China and others know that should they become belligerent that this particular platform can carry nuclear weapons. It can carry conventional weapons, as well," Rounds said. "It can do so and penetrate their most advanced air protection systems—their air defense systems—and take out some of the most sensitive sights that they have if we perceive that they are going to be or are using them in an offensive capability.”
Rounds said the Raider costs about $700 million each. That does not count the millions that have gone into research and development.
Scott Vander Hamm is the Vice President of Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that’s building the B-21 Raider.
During a recent keynote speech at the Black Hills Military Symposium in Rapid City, Vander Hamm said 80 million people watched the unveiling of the B-21 Raider last December.
He said a large chunk of viewers came from China.
“Twenty-five percent of those people had IP addresses in the People’s Republic of China. So, did we send a clear message? Did you hear [Defense Secretary] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin speak at that? Vice [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Admiral [Christopher] Grady and Kathy Warden, our president and CEO?" Vander Hamm said. "We sent a clear deterrence message.”
China was not mentioned during the rollout in Palmdale, California.
Officials expect the stealth bomber to take its first flight later this year. The B-21 is expected in Ellsworth sometime around the middle of this decade.