Calling all U.S. Airmen … do you have what it takes to name the military’s next stealth bomber?
For the first time, Air Force personnel have the chance to name a revolutionary, state-of-the-art aircraft - the first long-range stealth bomber of the 21st century.
The new stealth bomber joining the U.S. Air Force is expected to be a remarkable aircraft. In war, this new aircraft could fly deep into hostile areas – undetected – where it can unleash serious munitions against an enemy.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James threw down the challenge last month when she unveiled the first concept image of the bomber.
“This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and (their) voice is important to this process,” James said. "So we have an image, we have a designation, but what we don't yet have, we don't yet have a name.”
“This is where I'm challenging and I'm calling on every airman today ... to give us your best suggestions for a name for the B-21, America's newest bomber," she added.
Any Airman. whether Active, Guard, Reserve or civilian has a shot at naming an aircraft that will fly as part of the future fleet ensuring U.S. air dominance in war for the next generation.
What do we know about the ultra-secret stealth bomber?
There has been plenty of speculation about the new Long Range Strike Bomber, which has been shrouded in secrecy.
Related: New tech gives US helicopter pilots 'Superman-style' vision
Last fall the Pentagon announced that Northrop Grumman would be making the aircraft, which is intended to revolutionize stealth bombing.
Another big clue about plane came during a Super Bowl commercial, which featured a new aircraft that at one point was literally cloaked. Some industry experts believed this was a representation of Northrop’s vision for the new mysterious bomber, prompting a flurry of speculation on social media.
Now, the Pentagon has revealed the first rendering of the concept design. The Long Range Strike Bomber looks black and its zig-zag shape is fittingly futuristic. It wouldn’t look out of place in the next “Star Wars” film.
The new stealth bomber’s designation is B-21, reflecting the fact it is the first bomber of the 21st century.
So what can this futuristic aircraft do?
The aircraft will be able to launch from the U.S. and attack any spot anywhere on the globe with unrivalled stealth and lethality.
The aircraft is expected to replace the nearly four-decades-old B-1 as well as the legendary B-52 Stratofortress that has served the country for about six decades.
The military has kept details of the wish list for its new bomber classified. However, the B-21 will inevitably be fully loaded with lots of technologies and next-gen innovations. It may even withstand nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and still operate.
So who is making the new bomber?
On March 7, the Pentagon revealed even more details about the new plane.
Pratt & Whitney, a company that makes the F-35 engine, will build the B-21 engine.
The Air Force has also named six other companies who will help Northrop Grumman in building the rest of the bomber: BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, Janicki Industries, Orbital ATK, Rockwell Collins and Spirit AeroSystems.
The B-21’s path to creation is not without resistance. Developing a revolutionary Long Range Strike bomber does not come at a cheap price tag. It will have to duke it out for funding against other Air Force programs.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. John McCain, also recently stated he would not authorize the B-21 if it was procured under a cost-plus contract.
The B-21 has moved into the “Engineering and Manufacturing Development” phase.
Interested Airmen should check in with the AF.mil website and the Air Force’s social media accounts for updates on how to submit their ideas for a name. The name will be announced at the Air Force Association conference held Sept. 19 to 21 this year.
The new bomber will start deploying in the mid-2020s.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.