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The Raider Spirit: The Unveiling of the B-21

The US military industrial complex has made news with another eye-wateringly expensive product, a near totemic tribute to waste in a time of crisis. The $700 million B-21 Raider stealth bomber was unveiled by Northrop Grumman Corp. and the United States Air Force on December 2 at Airforce Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

There was much slush and fudge about the project, with its release being treated as something akin to the Second Coming. Those in public relations were kept particularly busy. Social media was shamelessly used to advertise the event, which was livestreamed. “Join now for our live reveal of the B-21 Raider,” tweeted Northrop Grumman. “This changes everything.”

The occasion was the first of its type since November 1988, when the Northrop B-2 Spirit made its debut. The aircraft in question, with serial number 00001 was rolled forward, still covered in tarpaulin, from a hangar before defence and policy wonks, the press and 2,000 workers. The removal of the covering revealed a machine reminiscent of the original B-2 with an extra-terrestrial echo, described as “space-age coatings”.

Praise was heaped upon the celebrated, as yet untested monster. “The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence,” stated Doug Young, sector vice president and general manager at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems.

A USAF news release was filled with justifications for the Raider. (The ceremony was timed to coincide with a new report on Chinese military capabilities.) “The B-21 Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades,” declared Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin during the unveiling. “It is a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”

As with all defence projects of absurd expenditure, justification is easily sought and found. Such a creation, argue defence officials, was entirely in line with the National Defense Strategy “and other analyses”. No degree of ingenuity is required to appreciate the primary thrust of the NDS, which is “deterrence against China.” Of its four top defence priorities outlined in the document, the PRC receives generous coverage, being seen as a “growing multi-domain threat” and any country challenging US interests in the Indo-Pacific.

As Austin has previously stated, “We’re seamlessly integrating our deterrence efforts to make a basic truth crystal clear to any potential foe. The truth is that the cost of aggression against the United States or our allies and partners far outweigh any conceivable gains.”

This delusional effusion is striking for inverting what are overly aggressive overtures on the international scene, turning them into the more benign objective of deterrence. Reduced to a skeletal outline, defending US supremacy is the order of the day, and any pretenders or mischief makers will be dealt with, however genuine their credentials. And when in doubt, those ominous credentials are bound to be inflated.

The B-21 is merely one aspect of that policy. It “is deterrence the American way,” claims Austin, which might be regarded as threatened aggression by other means. “It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love. It’s a testament to our strategy of deterrence – with the capabilities to back it up, every time and everywhere.”

Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr., was careful to doff the cap to representatives of the military industrial complex, where corporation and tax payer dollars mix with little scrutiny and few scruples. “You think about what we’re able to do in the amount of time with the workforce here from Northrop Grumman, the collaboration with the United States Air Force to bring in a capability using a digital approach which is new and different from anything we’ve done [in] any major program, that’s part of the Raider spirit.”

Those at Northrop Grumman won even greater favour with Pentagon bean counters, reportedly developing the project at an amount less than the original $25.1 billion projection by the USAF. Time will tell.

The event itself was not exactly brimming with revelations. Air & Space Forces Magazine bluntly noted that little by way of new information about the aircraft was supplied, be it about capabilities, dimensions, or “further programmatic details, such as the planned production rate, or even how many engines power the bomber.” Austin boasted that it would have a range longer than any other bomber, and “won’t need to be based in theatre. It won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk.”

The bomber, the USAF tells us, was designed to be “a long-range, highly survivable stealth bomber capable of delivering a mix of conventional and nuclear munitions. The aircraft will play a major role supporting national security objectives and assuring US allies and partners across the globe.”

We also learn that the B-21 unveiled on December 2 is one of six in the production line, with an eventual target of 100 or even 150 (defence officials are fickle about such projections). “Each is considered a test aircraft, but each is being built on the same production line, using the same tools, processes, and technicians who will build production aircraft.”

Opinions and assessments, as they often are in such defence dispatches, are scripted to say nothing while clouding the main issues. Andrew P. Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, comes up with a bubble-filled sample. “Leveraging innovative manufacturing techniques, open systems architectures and active management allows us to integrate new technology as it matures and ensures the B-21 can adapt to future threats and be successful when and where we need it.”

While the name of the aircraft is meant to evoke the daring of the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo by 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers in retaliation for Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour, the B-21 is the offspring of a very different spirit: the raider turned wasteful aggressor-in-waiting.

 

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15 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    The last war toy purchased for the RAAF from the American NE Military Industrial Complex was the JSF, a flying lemon thanks to LIttle Johnnie Howard ignoring specialist flying knowledge from Australian experts in the area.

    When will Australian politicians wake up to the great con being pulled here ….. surely Australian sovereignty has been sacrificed to provide cannon fodder and now nuclear targets for the imperialist adventures of the USA (United States of Apartheid) in Asia.

    But we went there before, ”All the way with LBJ” and our society is STILL bearing the costs and scars.

    When a country has Americas as an ally then is there really any need for further enemies?

  2. Michael Taylor

    NEC, it’s not just the USA that’s spending zillions on war toys, as has often been noted on this site.

    From the “Related Articles” below Dr Binoy’s post there are two posts from Kaye Lee being critical of Australia’s defence bill, and one from Binoy attacking Russia. Elsewhere we’ve published a piece by Dr Venturini in regards to Saudi Arabia’s obsession with military weapons.

  3. GL

    The Spud would be having orgasms galore at the thought of buying these toys of death and destruction if he was still the defence minister.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Indeed, GL, he’d have one mounted in his lounge room, just next to the mounted head of a koala he shot.

  5. king1394

    Capitalism’s perfect product. Something that is purchased unquestioningly for no purpose other destruction.

  6. Phil Pryor

    The shitskulled shysters who make this object and the military, financial and political backing for a murder means, a mincing machine, a corpse accumulator, is just so uncivilised.., but, these anuses will bomb a future wilderness of starving serfs just to be sure…so, may royalty anoint it, the popes and prelates and imams and swamis bless it, and may we be allowed to pay for the thucking fing, before it kills us all; Oh just to see this wonder…for a last second of beholding corporate capitalism’s delight.

  7. Roswell

    Elon Musk could buy one as his private jet.

  8. Harry Lime

    Fuck me.

  9. Fred

    HL: I’ll bring condoms, so where do you want to meet? 🙂 🙂 🙂
    PS. While I can empathise with your exasperation, “f… me” is a bit rude on its own.
    The B21s are a hideous waste of money, but given the US approach to warfare, it is not unexpected for bombers to feature in their arsenal.

  10. Harry Lime

    Fred,If you could provide me with some colour photos,and a comprehensive CV,I might consider your offer.I was beginning to think nobody cared.
    While we’re on hideous waste on things that go”Bang”,I note that our newly minted SA Premier is up and about spruiking nuclear and building AUKUS subs in SA.Either his new job has gone to his head,or he needs to urgently adjust his meds.

  11. Fred

    HL: LOL. So what is it about this new found obsession with having nuke power? When the Nats raised the issue for domestic power and were asked “so who wants it in their backyard”, not many hands were raised and the issue faded.

    The AUKUS subs idea is silly, expensive (USD$3.5B per boat today), likely to deliver obsolete capability with delivery in 2040+ or a massive expense if the program is dropped. I’m guessing we would be encouraged to fill the weapons tubes with 28+ Tomahawk missiles at around $2M a pop (another $56M of waste and yes it’s chicken feed compared to the boat).

  12. Harry Lime

    Fred,I don’t believe for one second that any of these bullshit,never never subs will ever be built…it’s a gigantic hoax perpetrated by the Military Industrial Complex on lapdog,client States who are too afraid to say no.We’ll be fully occupied with trying to survive extremes of climate change and the inevitable mass migration of refugees.People are not going to give a fuck about non existent, obsolete and ridiculously expensive metal coffins,when they are living under bridges, and lining up at soup kitchens.

  13. New England Cocky

    @ MT: Thank you for your comment. The nice thing about AIMN is that the authors usually have balanced opinions based on personal experience or personal study, like the late Dr Venturini.

    So, the ”ruling cliques” are being encouraged to become insecure in their maldistribution of wealth so are seeking military force to operate against the masses when the inevitable mass uprisings occur. Remember 1792 and ”let them eat cake”?

    I have noted elsewhere that flying Darwin to Canberra is shorter than Darwin to Beijing, so why would an occupying ”friendly force” be putting B-52s or B-21s on the front line against Canberra? Is the Pentagon scared that the Australian pollies may put the best interests of Australian voters ahead of the interests of American multinational corporations.

    When a country has the USA (United States of Apartheid) as an ally why are other enemies needed?

  14. Consume Less

    The planet is suffocating in filth and this is what humanity is prioritizing, very SAD.

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