Five Potential Export Clients for America’s Upcoming B-21 Stealth Bomber: From India to Australia

B-21 Stealth Bomber

The B-21 next-generation stealth bomber is set to be manufactured in much larger numbers than any other Western bomber aircraft in over half a century, with the U.S. Air Force alone potentially ordering over 200 of the jets and the possibility of exports to allies having repeatedly been raised. The aircraft will replace the U.S. 

Air Force’s B-1B and B-2 bombers in frontline service in the 2030s, with work on building prototypes having already begun and the aircraft’s first flight, expected in 2022. Although the U.S. did not export its recent generations of intercontinental range strategic bombers, the B-21 is expected to fulfil a number of roles beyond long-range nuclear delivery including potentially that of an airborne early warning aircraft to capitalise on its stealth capabilities large sensor suite to share data with fighter units, and potentially as a node for data sharing between other units which will capitalise on its artificial intelligence. 

The roles of a tanker for aerial refueling, a strike aircraft using standoff cruise or ballistic missiles, and a platform for mounting laser and directed energy weapons are currently under development. 

The versatility of the B-21, which is expected to be the most dangerous combat aircraft in the Western world, could make it highly attractive for export clients particularly as its maintenance requirements and operational costs are expected to be significantly lower than those of previous American bomber designs. With the aircraft expected to cost up to 75% less per unit than its predecessor the B-2 Spirit, the B-21 could be affordable to a number of countries. 

The attraction of a production run and possibly even of expanded production lines, meaning greater efficiency and more funds for research and development, could incline the U.S. to market the B-21 abroad. 

The fact that bombers used by allied states could effectively increase the capabilities of a U.S.-led alliance against China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, or any other adversary, and could effectively reduce the military burden on America itself, also provides a strong incentive to consider exporting the aircraft. A look at the five leading potential clients for the B-21 is given below: 


Australia has been highlighted as a likely potential client for the B-21 should the aircraft be offered for export, and has already begun preparations to accommodate the aircraft on U.S. Air Force facilities on its own territory. 

As Canberra’s western partners seek to support its military buildup targeting China in particular, with it serving as a Western outpost near Southeast Asia, providing it with the ability to strike targets across the region will support broader Western goals. 

Australia was previously the only client for the American F-111 long-range strike fighter, which was used as a major tool of intimidation against neighboring Indonesia due to its advanced precision strike capabilities, and a B-21 purchase could be an effective successor to this acquisition and be used to similar ends but across a much wider afield. 

The aircraft would complement Australia’s participation in the F-35 program as one of its largest export clients, and its reported plans to deploy F-35B jets from carrier to project power deeper into East Asia. Threats to Australia’s northern bases and offshore airbases would be mitigated by acquiring the aircraft, which has the range needed to strike targets across most of East and Southeast Asia from bases in inland Australia without the need to rely on more vulnerable facilities. 

Reports that Canberra also considered acquiring nuclear weapons could further considerably improve the appeal of the B-21. 


Israel represents a leading potential client for the B-21 and has a number of potential uses for the advanced long-ranged aircraft. The small Middle Eastern country is one of the world’s only nine nuclear weapons states, and the B-21 would significantly strengthen the air arm of its nuclear deterrent alongside land-based Jericho 2 missiles and Dolphin Class submarines armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. 

Perhaps more importantly, the B-21 will be able to carry high ordinance penetrative bombs such as the GBU-57 which Israel is currently incapable of deploying, which provide the country with far more credible military options against the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

A B-21 paired with such weapons is the most effective means to neutralize Iran's heavily fortified nuclear sites and missile bases underground, and Israel currently lacks the ability to penetrate such facilities from the air unless it uses nuclear weapons - but even its nuclear arsenal may be insufficient without the proper delivery systems. 

Israel also lacks aircraft capable of operating in Iranian airspace for sustained periods - something only the B-21 would be well suited to among Western aircraft with the F-35 and even F-15 lacking the necessary range. Israel has also sought to project power further afield in the past including to North Africa and even Pakistan, making the B-21 a highly valued asset. 


As Japan has begun to shift its defense posture to acquire more weapons for offensive roles, including missiles capable of long-range precision strikes with North Korea, China, and Russia in mind, the country has emerged as a possible client for the B-21 bomber which would be provided with more options for attacks on targets in neighboring states. 

With the Japanese military under heavy U.S. supervision and an extensive American military presence remaining in the country, the risks to U.S. interests of providing the aircraft will be relatively low. The benefits, however, could be significant, with a Japanese B-21 fleet well positioned to complement that of the U.S. for East Asian operations and with Japan well positioned to place large orders. 

As the country looks to acquire two new classes of a sixth-generation fighter jet, the B-21 may well be the only combat aircraft the U.S. will be able to market to Japan in the coming years - with arms sales doing much to narrow the wide trade imbalance that otherwise favors Japan. 


India has previously expressed interest in acquiring a bomber primarily for a maritime strike role and was previously considered a possible client for the Russian Tu-22M medium-weight bomber for operations in the Indian Ocean. It also operated the Tu-142, derived from the Tu-95 bomber's airframe, for anti-submarine warfare. 

The B-21 is likely to be equipped with the same LRASM (Long Range Anti Ship Missile) currently used by the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B Lancer bombers, which combined with the new jet’s stealth features and powerful sensor suite would make it a very capable aircraft in an anti-shipping role which could seriously threaten enemy warships across the Indian Ocean. 

With the U.S. having itself deployed bombers to the region and looking to cultivate India as a major defense client, a B-21 sale would likely be approved. The aircraft would pose a threat to Chinese naval assets in a region that is key to the East Asian state's supply routes, and also has the potential of providing a deep strike capability to bolster the Indian nuclear deterrent. India’s Navy notably previously purchased American P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft to patrol the Indian Ocean, while also previously considering the F-18E Super Hornet for its planned supercarrier before it was canceled, which makes prospects for a small B-21 fleet flying under the Indian Navy far from implausible. 


France has emerged as a leading American strategic partner among NATO members and maintains the second most powerful military in the alliance by a considerable margin. The country has been relied on as a leading supporter of American offensives in Syria, where both countries deploy ground troops on Syrian soil, and in East Asia where France has backed Washington in leading calls for more Western military involvement. France has a history of operating strategic bomber aircraft, most notably the Mirage IV of the Cold War era, and could deploy the B-21s not only to place further pressure on Russia in Europe but also for operations in the Middle East, West Africa, and in East Asia. 

The country has led calls for Western-imposed restrictions on Iran’s missile deterrent, while its network of island outposts in the Pacific acquired during the colonial era provide it with a suitable staging ground for bomber operations in East Asia. 

Although France has relied heavily on its own often troubled military aviation sector to fulfill most of its military’s needs, it has in the past acquired higher-end aircraft from the U.S. such as the E-3 Hawkeye airborne early warning jet. With the country highly unlikely to be able to afford a stealth bomber of its own, and almost 40 years after the U.S. has yet to field any stealth aircraft whatsoever, the possibility of an indigenous alternative to the B-21 remains negligible. 

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