It is well known that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is increasingly relying on Artificial Intelligence and related technology for numerous military applications.
DoD’s public spending on AI, including autonomy, “ballooned” to $2.5 billion in 2021, according to C4ISRNET.
It should thus be no surprise that the new OpenAi bot ChatGPT has caught DoD’s eye and has been added to a Defense Information Systems Agency “watch list.”
But, “[e]xactly how generative AI might be applied at the Pentagon is unclear,” writes Colin Demarest in “Generative AI like viral ChatGPT lands on DISA technology watch list.”
After seven years in the making, on December 2 of last year, the U.S. Air Force rolled out its closely guarded, new B-21 stealth bomber (tail number 0001) out of Northrop Grumman’s facilities at Palmdale, Calif.
While, at the dramatic unveilig, only the front and the sides were visible so as “not to unveil the design around the engine outlets, which is likely designed to reduce detectable heat,” the new aircraft presented an imposing image and promised a fascinating story.
Fort the next few weeks, I did research on the B-21 “Raider,” collected information and data and was just about to write a piece about it when I heard about “ChatGPT”, an AI tool developed by OpenAI — the new internet “phenomenon.”
“What the heck,” I said to myself, “let’s give it a try.”
The following are the verbatim AI-generated responses to questions I posed and received in less than 10 minutes — verbatim except for the deletion of a couple of redundancies
This is the first time I have used ChatGPT. While I do not know how effective, accurate or reliable it is, especially when dealing with subjective topics, I am very impressed with my first encounter with this powerful “general purpose chatbot prototype.”
Judge for yourself.
Tell me about the new B-21 bomber.
The B-21 Raider is a new stealth bomber being developed by the United States Air Force (USAF). It is being developed by Northrop Grumman, and is intended to replace the aging fleet of B-1 and B-2 bombers. The B-21 is designed to evade radar detection and carry out a variety of missions, including nuclear and conventional strike, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The B-21 is still in development and the first flight is expected in the mid 2020s.
How much does its development cost?
The development cost of the B-21 Raider bomber is classified, but it is expected to be a multibillion-dollar program. The Air Force has stated that the cost of each aircraft will be less than $564 million in 2010 dollars, which is the cost cap set by the US Congress for the program. However, the total development and procurement costs for the B-21 program are likely to be significantly higher. The U.S. Air Force has budgeted $2.1 billion for research and development through 2022 and $2.3 billion for procurement in 2023. However, this budget could change as the program develops.
How many will be built?
The United States Air Force (USAF) plans to build a fleet of at least 100 B-21 Raiders, however the exact number of aircraft that will be built has not been officially confirmed. The program is still in development and the number of aircraft produced could change depending on the future budget and military requirements. The Air Force plans to acquire 100 B-21s in total but with the option to acquire more, up to a total of around 175 aircraft. It’s also worth noting that some reports suggest that the final number of aircraft built may be less than 100, depending on the final cost of each aircraft and overall budget constraints.
Which aircraft is the B-21 replacing?
The B-21 Raider is being developed to replace the aging fleet of B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers in the United States Air Force (USAF).
The B-1 Lancer is a supersonic, variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber that first entered service in 1986. The B-1 has been used primarily in the conventional bombing role, but it has also been used in the nuclear deterrence role. It is currently planned to retire the B-1 Lancer by 2036.
The B-2 Spirit is a stealth, heavy bomber that first entered service in 1997. It is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear weapons, and has been used in a variety of combat operations. It is also planned to retire by 2058.
What is the crew of a B-21?
The B-21 Raider is expected to have a two-person crew, consisting of a pilot and a co-pilot (also known as a weapon systems officer). The two-person crew configuration is common for most modern military aircraft, as it allows for a division of labor and improved efficiency in the cockpit. This also allows for one person to fly the aircraft while the other operates the weapons systems, navigation, and communications.
It’s worth noting that the B-21 is designed to be flown remotely or by a single pilot, utilizing advanced automation and artificial intelligence to reduce the crew size. This means that the aircraft could potentially be flown with a single pilot or even without a pilot on board, depending on the mission and the level of autonomy that is implemented.
Where will the B-21 be based?
The United States Air Force (USAF) has not officially announced where the B-21 Raider stealth bombers will be based once they enter service. However, it is likely that they will be based at the same bases that currently host the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers that the B-21 is intended to replace.
Currently, the B-1 Lancer bombers are based at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. The B-2 Spirit bombers are based at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. It’s likely that the B-21 will be based at these locations as well.
It’s also worth noting that B-21 could be based at other locations, depending on the needs of the Air Force and the availability of suitable facilities. Additionally, the B-21 could be based on multiple bases, for example, some for training, some for maintenance, and others for operation in order to distribute the aircrafts and reduce the risk of a single point failure.
Any idea of the speed, range and flight altitude of the B21?
The United States Air Force (USAF) has not officially released information about the speed, range, and flight altitude of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber. However, it is expected to have similar performance characteristics to its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit.
The B-2 Spirit is a stealth heavy bomber, it is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds, and has a maximum speed of around 600 miles per hour (Mach 0.85). Its maximum range is around 6,000 miles (9,600 km) when carrying a payload of 40,000 pounds (18,143 kg). It’s expected that the B-21 will have similar, if not better performance than the B-2.
The B-2 Spirit can fly at an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,240 m) and above, it uses stealth technology to evade radar detection and can fly at high altitude to avoid detection by surface-to-air missiles. It’s likely that the B-21 will have similar, if not better stealth capabilities and can fly at similar altitude, if not higher.
It’s worth noting that the performance characteristics are still in development and the final numbers could be different from the expected ones.
What do military aviation experts think of the B-21?
Military aviation experts generally have a positive view of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber program.
Experts have praised the B-21’s stealth capabilities, which are considered to be among the most advanced in the world. They also appreciate the B-21’s ability to fly at high altitudes, which will make it difficult for surface-to-air missiles to detect and engage the aircraft.
Some experts have also noted that the B-21’s two-person crew configuration is a significant improvement over the B-2 Spirit’s crew of two pilots and a weapons systems officer, which is expected to increase the aircraft’s efficiency and reduce the workload on the pilots.
Additionally, experts have praised the Air Force’s decision to develop the B-21 as a “flying wing” design, which is expected to enhance the aircraft’s stealth capabilities and make it more difficult for radar to detect.
However, some experts have also raised concerns about the high cost of the B-21 program, which is estimated to be over $100 billion, and the potential for cost overruns. Additionally, some experts have raised concerns about the B-21’s ability to operate in heavily defended airspace, as the aircraft’s capabilities in this area have not been fully tested yet.
Overall, experts believe that the B-21 Raider is a highly advanced and capable aircraft that is expected to play a critical role in the United States Air Force’s future operations.
Any final opinions or observations on the B-21?
The B-21’s stealth capabilities are considered to be among the most advanced in the world, and its ability to fly at high altitudes will make it difficult for surface-to-air missiles to detect and engage the aircraft. The B-21’s two-person crew configuration is expected to increase the aircraft’s efficiency and reduce the workload on the pilots.
In conclusion, the B-21 Raider is a highly advanced aircraft that is expected to play a critical role in the United States Air Force’s future operations. However, the high cost of the program and the potential for cost overruns, as well as the aircraft’s abilities in heavily defended airspace, will require close monitoring and management.
CODA: As this is my first experience with ChatGPT, I cannot offer any additional comments or opinions on this AI tool that has gone viral on the internet. However, there are numerous articles providing varyious views on the latest AI tool that is “sparking worry and wonder in equal.”
Of course, readers’ opinions are always welcome.
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.