The Air Force's next stealth bomber will be called the Raider.
The aircraft's name, announced Monday at the Air Force Association's Air Space Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, hearkens back to one of the service's most storied moments: the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in World War II, the first raid on the Japanese homeland..
And to underscore the connection, one of the Doolittle Raiders — 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole, who was then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle's copilot on aircraft 1 during the raid — took the stage to make the announcement, alongside Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
"I am very humbled to be here representing Gen. Doolittle and the Raiders at the naming of the B-21 Raider, and wish they were here," Cole said. "We are deeply honored."
In her introduction, James called Cole "a cut above" and "one of the greatest men of the Greatest Generation."
"He signed up for a one-way trip to Tokyo back in April of 1942 with Jimmy Doolittle," James said. "Our Greatest Generation, the generation of World War II, secured our freedom for all of us, and we've been able to live our lives as a result."
The Air Force earlier this year held a contest to have airmen submit suggestions to name the B-21. James saluted Lt. Col. Jaime Hernandez, commander of the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, and Technical Sgt. Derek White, an emergency management craftsman at the 175th Civil Engineering Squadron with the Maryland Air National Guard, for submitting the winning name.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.