There’s a long history of naming weapons of war. The Army names its classes of tanks after fabled generals (Sherman, Patton, Abrams), while the Navy—because it gives a name to each of its warships—has a litany of nomenclature traditions and guidelines to follow.
The Air Force splits the difference. Historically, it has named each kind of warplane it flies (the F-15 Eagle fighter, the Q-1 Predator drone). But as they’ve gotten more costly it also been giving each plane a name. Most $2 billion B-2 Spirit bombers, for example, are also named after states. Many $300 million C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes also carry a Spirit of [Your State, City, or Other Military-Themed Word Here] name.
And then, of course, there are the unofficial, and often more entertaining, nicknames assigned by the airmen who fly and fix them (the A-10 attack plane’s official nickname is Thunderbolt II, compared to the more beloved, descriptive, and widely-used, Warthog) .
Well, like parents debating the right name for a soon-to-be-born child, the Air Force is seeking just the right name for its new B-21 bomber. The Air Force plans to spend up to $90 billion on 100 of the Northrop Grumman planes, and hopes to have them operational in about a decade. At nearly $1 billion apiece, it’s likely that each warplane will end up with its own individual name, but for now it’s just looking for an overall name for this new kind of bomber.
It only announced the B-21 designation last week (previously, it had been called, gracelessly, the Long-Range Strike Bomber). But instead of buying one of those baby-naming books, the Air Force has opened the gates to its nearly half-million uniformed and civilian personnel for suggestions.
Many have been predictable: Banshee, Batwing, Grey Owl, Razor, Silence, Vader and Wraith are among those submitted in response to the Air Force’s B-21 announcement.
Others have been submitted with a wink, including Hindsight, National Debt and Surprise. “I don’t know,” one commenter wondered. “What are the Chinese calling theirs?”
Some are more serious. “Call it The B-21 Justice,” one poster recommended. “Our enemies should know that they face justice for their actions, and it’s also a reminder to us that our arms should only be borne to promote what is just.”
Another commenter came up with a similar, if less politic, name. “Respectfully, I believe it’s time to remind this fractious world why America’s military has long-range bombers,” he wrote. “I humbly suggest the B-21 Executioner.”
Feel free to make your own suggestion, even if you don’t wear Air Force blue, here.