Sending a signal to potential adversaries, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced on September 20 that Northrop Grumman has five B-21 Raider stealth bombers in final production. This comes at a time when the Air Force is increasing its bomber presence in Iceland and is working hard to maintain and grow its air superiority.


The B-21 Stealth Bomber in Production

News of the Air Force’s newest stealth bomber is scarce, owing to its super-secret nature. Initial reports had just two of the bombers in final production.

Designed to replace the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit, the Raider is expected to begin flight testing soon. Members of the 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, CA, will take possession of the first B-21 when it is released to the Air Force. The 419th is the Air Force’s Global Power Bomber Combined Test Force, responsible for any and all new programs for the U.S.’ bomber fleet.


Icelandic Defense

B-2 Spirits bombers recently deployed to Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, in a first for the stealth bomber community. Keflavik was an important WWII and Cold War base for the U.S., serving as a gateway to the northern Atlantic. Initially, the base served as a refueling point for aircraft traveling to and from Europe during WWII. When Iceland joined NATO after the war, it requested a U.S. military presence, and the Iceland Defense Force was born.

The U.S. operated the base as a watchpoint for Soviet forces. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, such as the E-3 AWACS, rotated through, as well as fighters like the F-4 Phantom and, later, the F-15 Eagle. These aircraft, along with ground radar stations, actively watched the skies for Soviet bombers, intercepting them when needed. The defensive nature of the base remained unchanged, acting in a response rather than an engagement role. By 2006, however, the U.S. had effectively ended its mission in Iceland, with the 56th Rescue Group as the last unit leaving. With the deployment of the B-2 to Iceland, a new chapter in the European theater has opened.