The U.S. Air Force’s New Stealth Bomber Needs a Nickname
The B-1 Lancer. The B-2 Spirit. The B-52 Stratofortress. It’s important for the official names of America’s bombers to come with a certain panache … and personality. Think of it like a brand name, albeit one for a machine capable of nuking a city.
Now for America’s next bomber — officially designated the B-21 — Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James unwisely asked airmen to help come up with a name. James revealed the B-21 designation and a new concept image of the bomber during a Feb. 26 Air Force Association symposium in Orlando, Florida.
Even better, James put up the request for a bomber name on her official Facebook page. The result — tons of unintentional hilarity. Some names are cheesy, some outright bad and others are satirical … while a few are pretty good.
“I say we call it the Money Pit,” one commenter wrote. “Stratowasteofmytaxdollars,” another added. A third called it the “Budget Killer.” (The B-21 could cost $564 million a piece.) “Black Kraken! ‘Release the Kraken!’” came another. Someone who really liked Norse mythology wanted “something to do with the Norse Gods, maybe Thor…”
If the Air Force takes the Norse route, I’d suggest Snotra, the Goddess of prudence. Main reason being that the B-21 will be capable of dropping nuclear weapons. There’s an awesome power and responsibility here, so let’s not screw it up.
At top — the B-2 Spirit. S Kaiser/Flickr photo. Above — official Air Force concept art of the upcoming B-21 bomber. Air Force art
Some went for pure camp. “Metal Storm!” The Batwing. “Name it the B-21 Black Dragon!” The Erazor. The Doppleganger “or perhaps, Ankou.” In a nod to Pentagon jargon, NPR national security editor Phil Ewing proposed some ideas, too:
B-21 Lethal Effects Deliverer B-21 Bad Guy Make Go-Away System B-21 Network Integrated Ordnance Vector Enabler B-21 Optimal Outcome Enabler
Others searched for similies. “The Pigeon. You never see it coming until it drops crap on you,” a commenter wrote. In a similar vein, one suggested calling it the B-21 Merlin. “A Merlin is a fierce flacon [sic] that uses surprise attacks.”
A few commenters broke with tradition. “The ‘Obomber’ lol,” one wrote. “May I suggest we name it to honor Gen. Curtis LeMay,” another added, this time apparently serious. LeMay was an influential, brilliant and brutal Air Force strategist who led the firebombings of Japanese cities during World War II. He earned the nickname “the Demon.”
We don’t think the Air Force will go for it. Note the B-21 is a long range, precision-strike stealth bomber — a very different concept from the World War II bombers of yore. The B-21 will have a far greater payload, range and stealthiness. Some commenters offered names to reflect that role.
The Shadowfortress. The Crow. “Call it the Owl. A silent bird of pray hunting in the night!” The Stratowarrior. The Guardian. The Ghost. “Someone mentioned the Phoenix and I think that’s a pretty good representation,” a commenter wrote. “It not only represents a rebirth coming from the B-2 program, but also a re-envisioning of [Air Force] long range strike doctrine.”
Personally, I like Shadowfortress, because that just sounds cool and sufficiently bomber-ish. If I had my way, I’d look to the Culture. Though we should perhaps consult the Air Force’s official rulebook for naming aircraft.