DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Dyess Airmen assigned to the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron, under the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., were recognized for naming the Air Force’s new long-range strike bomber, the B-21 Raider.
The aircraft has been named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders of World War II. The 337th TES sent in their submission March 10, at the beginning of the contest. The name was announced by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 19. Retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, the last remaining Doolittle Raider, was in attendance for the naming ceremony.
“We wanted ensure the aircraft had a strong name Airmen could take pride in especially those who will have the opportunity to fly and maintain the B-21,” said Lt. Col. Jaime Hernandez, 337th TES commander. “We also wanted to take an element of our history into account, and the story of the Doolittle Raiders embodies just that.”
The justification the 337th TES provided for the moniker states:
On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led the nation’s first retaliatory strikes against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The crews of 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers, known as the Doolittle Raiders, took flight from the deck of the USS Hornet. The last time a foreign nation had attempted a direct attack on mainland Japan was more than 700 years prior when Kublai Khan, a Mongolian emperor, sent a naval armada from China to conquer the Japanese islands. Khan ultimately failed in the attempt. Over time, Japan perceived their island nation as an “impenetrable fortress.” Doolittle and members of the 34th and 37th Bomb Squadrons proved otherwise. For his heroic efforts in leading the Raiders through the one-way combat mission and safely returning most of the crew, Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Long-range strike bombers are meant to infiltrate anti-access, area denial regions and hold any “impenetrable fortress” at risk. Calling the B-21, Raider, provides a direct link to our bomber heritage, represents the mission of the new aircraft and will strike fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.
The versatile capabilities of the B-25 helped make the perilous mission successful. According to Boeing, the B-25 was once the most heavily armed aircraft in the world, which was used for high and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol and as a fighter.
“The Doolittle Raiders accomplished something they never thought a bomber could do at that time,” Hernandez said. “They were able to launch B-25s from an aircraft carrier, and fly a crazy distance to Japan as a show of force.”
The 337th Airmen discussed the possibility of names during a BOGSAT, which stands for a “bunch of guys sitting around.” They used a dry-erase board to list these names.
“Our first pick was Slayer, which is the call sign our squadron flies with,” Hernandez said. “Other names we listed were Fury, Archangel and Demon. We decided on Raider through a vote, and worked together to provide the justification behind the name.”
Cole, who lives in Comfort, Texas, which is about two hours from Dyess, took the time to write the 337th TES thanking them for such an honor.
“Thanks for thinking of us…even 75 years later,” the Doolittle Raider wrote in the letter.
According to James, the role of the Raider will allow the Air Force to operate in a high-threat environment making it full-spectrum capable.
“The Raider will be a game changer for the Air Force in terms of an aircraft that can infiltrate any defenses the enemy will try to use,” Hernandez said. “It will be able to put a bomb on target wherever we need it whether to defend our nation or support our allies.”
You can find more information on the B-21 Raider here.
Story by Senior Airman Kedesha Pennant, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs