Is stealth really a necessity in military aviation? Charlie Clark examines the options for air arms
Thursday December 2, 2022 saw the rollout of the latest stealth design for the United States Air Force – the B-21 Raider, a type which is scheduled to replace the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit as the future backbone alongside the B-52 Stratofortress of the American heavy bomber force.
Strictly speaking, this is the first stealth design to replace a stealth model, as the first deployed stealth aircraft – the F-117 Nighthawk – arrived in-between missions, more a bomber than ever it was a fighter. Yet it was by no means a lesser aircraft for all that, leading stealth into combat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Back then it was a new type of aircraft with unique capabilities. The US Air Force has since deployed the F-22, B-2, F-35 and now the B-21 – giving the United States unprecedented experience with the design, production and employment. But will the day dawn when all frontline combat aircraft, not just those of the USAF, are exclusively composed of stealth designs?