WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Northrop Grumman Corp’s B-21 long-range bomber will be called “Raider,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James said on Monday.
The estimated $80 billion program has been shrouded in secrecy since its inception for fear of revealing military secrets to potential enemies.
The bomber was named after the Doolittle raiders, who early in World War Two carried out bombing missions over Japan, James said while speaking at a conference.
Northrop won a contract in October to develop and build 100 of the new bombers. [nL1N12R2ES]
The stealth B-21, the first new U.S. bomber of the 21st century, is part of an effort to replace the Air Force’s aging B-52 and B-1 bombers, though it is not slated to be ready for combat use before 2025.
Earlier this year, James unveiled the first image of the bomber and announced a contest to decide on a name. [nL2N1650WB]
James and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein chose the name after a panel narrowed down more than 2,000 submissions, an Air Force statement said.
Sixteen bombers under the command of American aviator Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle bombed Tokyo and other places in Japan on April 18, 1942, when American spirits were at a low point, just four months after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
To boost public morale, President Franklin Roosevelt asked the armed forces to respond to Pearl Harbor, and Doolittle, already retired, returned to active duty and the plan for the raid was hatched.
Over the years, the legend of their mission - the first U.S. raid to strike the Japanese home islands - has grown, spawning books and a movie and recognized by military and history buffs.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole, who recently turned 101 years old and was Doolittle’s co-pilot, was alongside James to announce the naming of the bomber.
Reporting by Idrees Ali