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Air Force picks three bases for B-21 Raiders

By
Allen Cone
This is an artist's rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, which will be based at three locations in the United States. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman
This is an artist's rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, which will be based at three locations in the United States. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman

May 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced Friday the B-21 Raider will replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit at bomber bases in Texas, South Dakota and Missouri.

The new long-range stealth bomber, which Northrop Grumman is developing in Palmdale, Calif., will be housed at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, the Air Force announced this week. The B-21 Raiders are expected to arrive sometime in 2025.

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The agency said because current bomber bases are being used, costs will be reduced.

"Our current bomber bases are best suited for the B-21," Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said in a statement. "We expect the first B-21 Raider aircraft to be delivered in the mid-2020s."

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The Pentagon said it doesn't plan to retire the existing bombers until there are sufficient B-21s to replace them.

Two other bases -- Barksdale in Louisiana and Minot in North Dakota -- will continue to host the B-52, likely through 2050. Upgrades are being made to the fleet of B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.

By 2019, the Air Force plans to make its final B-21 basing decision on compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and other regulatory and planning processes.

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In March, Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer announced the B-21 Raider would be headed "in the near future" to Edwards Air Force Base in southern California for testing. Schaefer is in charge of the 412th Test Wing at the base.

"We are designing the B-21 Raider to replace our aging bombers as a long-range, highly-survivable aircraft capable of carrying mixed conventional and nuclear payloads, to strike any target worldwide," said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein.

The estimated cost for the 100 B-21 aircraft is $80 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. The exact amount is classified.

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The bomber force dropped to 157 bombers at five bomb wings and 15 total force bomb squadrons from 290 at the end of Desert Storm in 1991.

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