The announcement for the $80 billion project came at the annual Air Force Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, and was given by Richard E. Cole, a 101-year-old World War II veteran, the last living member of the group after which the bomber is named.
On April 18, 1942, the "Doolittle Raiders," a group of 80 crew members and 16 B-25 bomber aircrafts, launched a strike on military outposts and target factories near Tokyo from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
Cole said he was "very honored" and "deeply humbled" to represent Gen. Dolittle and his fellow Raiders.
The strike, led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle with Cole as his co-pilot, proved to be an invaluable boost to the spirits of troops and US citizens following the Pearl Harbor attacks.
The new bomber aircraft name was chosen by a survey on a website launched by the Air Force Global Strike Command in March. The site took suggestions for the next-generation craft from current airmen, their families and retirees. There were over 2,000 submissions and the name "Raider" was chosen by Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein and US Air Force Secretary Deborah James, who introduced Cole at Monday’s conference.
After leaving the stage Cole said, "I thought it was quite a nice tribute," and that he "would feel a lot better about it if all the guys were here, but it's not possible."
In October, a $21.4 billion contract for manufacturing the bombers was awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp., who beat out Lockheed Martin and Boeing, two of the world’s largest aerospace and defense companies. Northrop also manufactured the B-2 Spirit, which is augmenting the force’s B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer fleets.
The service intends to purchase 100 of the bombers from Northrop.
"We haven't set the official number," said. Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. During a panel later in the day, Rand commented that the service should buy more than planned 100 bombers. "We need to start with a minimum of 100 B-21s. We need to really dig our heels in on, 'What should that ceiling be?'"
The stealth bomber is not expected to be introduced to service until the mid 2020s.