The United States usually sells a good part of its advanced combat aircraft to friendly countries, including fighters such as the F-15 Eagle and even the F-14 Tomcat, whose only foreign customer was Iran, shortly before the fall of its ally, the Xa Reza Pahlavi.
There are, however, exceptions. The F-117A stealth attack aircraft and the F-22 Raptor fighter are exclusive to the US Air Force (USAF) as are their strategic bombers.
But, by all indications, the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber could be exported. Northrop Grumman’s 6th generation aircraft is about to fly for the first time and is expected to enter service in the mid-decade.
It is considered an asset capable of changing the balance of forces with other military powers such as Russia and China, thanks to the new technologies it introduces.
Despite this, the US government even negotiated a possible sale of the B-21 to Australia. However, the country’s Ministry of Defense considered the aircraft not suitable for acquisition, at least for now.
The president of Northrop Grumman, Kathy Warden, revealed at a conference that although she considers it premature to think in another country “it’s important that there were discussions — ongoing ones,” about a possible sale of the Raider to a foreign customer.
A possible acquisition of the stealth bomber by Australia has at least one explanation. The country is undertaking an ambitious defense program in order to prepare to counter Chinese military expansion.
The clearest sign of this movement was the AUKUS agreement, with the US and the UK, which will supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.
A fleet of B-21s in the region would certainly be a deterrent to China’s potential territorial ambitions, which is still uneasy about Taiwan’s independence.
Only a geopolitical shift as profound as this could explain the United States’ interest in sharing a bomber as powerful as the B-21 Raider.
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And it would be a paradigm shift since the introduction of jet bombers. To date, none of the USAF Strategic Air Command’s aircraft have flown for another air force, whether B-52, B-58, B-1B, or B-2.
An exception in terms was the F-111 Aadvark attack aircraft, which had a bomber variant, the FB-111. The General Dynamics aircraft had a second customer, Australia.