The US Air Force has begun planning a new nuclear-capable, ultra-stealth bomber that will phase out the B-1B Lancer and B-2 spirit bombers, which have been hallmarks of the bomber fleet for decades.
The Air Force confirmed the retirement on Monday in a release outlining the future of the bomber force.
But the B-52, which first flew in 1952 and saw action, will stay funded through 2050.
The Air Force apparently reasoned that they don’t want to grow the bomber fleet or footprint too much, so older programs will have to make way for the new bomber, which will be called the B-21.
The B-1, a labor-intensive and expensive plane to fly, will face the axe. As will the B-2, of which only 20 exist.
The B-52 is an entirely different beast. Its age actually may have saved it, as the old plane doesn’t need as much maintenance and can carry a huge amount of munitions and a wide range as well. Currently, the B-52 flies over Afghanistan and recently broke a record for most guided missiles dropped.
Much of the details of the B-21 remain unknown, but President Donald Trump’s administration’s recent nuclear posture review envisions it carrying the Long Range Stand Off nuclear-capable cruise missile and having the stealth to cut through any airspace in the world.