OSI’s role protecting B-21’s cutting-edge technology

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

In the shadows of the B-21 Raider's high-profile development, the Office of Special Investigations engages in a mission at the highest levels of national security. 

Since the 2015 announcement of the sixth-generation stealth bomber, OSI's Office of Special Projects have protected the B-21's groundbreaking technology from global adversaries and insider threats.

“OSI is safeguarding America's next frontier of air superiority,” said Lee Russ, OSI PJ director. “Our team knows how high the stakes are. This transcends traditional security measures; we are protecting the future of air warfare against an evolving spectrum of threats.”

Essentially, OSI PJ has overseen security from the onset and through every phase of the development process, said Jeremy Townsend, OSI B-21 Program Security Officer. This ‘cradle to grave approach’ includes managing over 470 suppliers that provide everything from cutting-edge components down to the smallest nuts and bolts. 

"It’s my job to ensure industry partners and their facilities meet the requirements essential for hosting and operating within this program," Townsend said, and if security issues arise, OSI Special Agents step in to investigate and resolve potential threats. 

"We understand adversaries want the information we have, so it's imperative we listen to the field and maintain open lines of communication for any red flags that might arise,” said Special Agent Josh Rose, OSI PJ, who was part of the B-21 program prior to taking on a new role at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany.

These red flags encompass a range of scenarios; like foreign entities attempting to lure contractors, unauthorized information disclosures and more. According to Townsend, subtle tactics are often used by adversaries to entice those within the project.  

"A simple mathematical equation may be sold for thousands of dollars under the guise of 'nobody will get hurt,' but that’s not true, it can quickly turn into a national security threat," he said, underscoring OSI's role in identifying and mitigating these insider threats.

However, OSI’s efforts extend beyond investigating past security breaches. They also work to educate and prevent risks before they happen, Rose said. This proactive approach has contributed to the program's rapid development and production timeline.

"From educating to showing others what to look for, training is fundamental to preventing security breaches,” Rose said. “Everyone involved here is making high-level decisions every day to ensure the B-21, and all its information and technology, rolls out safely.”

In January, the go-ahead for a low-scale production of the stealth bomber was announced, signaling a new phase in its development. This new phase B-21 is now underway, officials said, with six units already in various stages of assembly and under OSI’s supervision.   

“We have industry oversight because we have to ensure all classified information is appropriately protected within the industry,” Townsend said. “We are there early and often to make sure all those who touch this program protect its information with the necessary level of security to help minimize vulnerabilities and ensure they're doing it right.” 

As the B-21 progresses towards its integration into the Department of the Air Force's arsenal by the mid-2020s, OSI PJ’s efforts will continue largely in the shadows, despite the aircraft moving closer and closer to the spotlight. 

“With the B-21 moving toward its service entry, aspects inevitably transition from classified to public knowledge,” Townsend said. “Once it was unveiled and began outdoor testing, its visibility meant we had to adapt our security measures.”

The stealth bomber publicly took to the skies last November, nearly a year after its unveiling. With flight tests underway, OSI has adapted techniques to the realities of a high-profile aircraft operating in plain sight.

"As we get closer to the B-21 Raider being fully operational, our mission continues to adapt,” said Brig. Gen. Amy Bumgarner, OSI’s commander. “This aircraft represents a leap forward in military capabilities, as well as OSI’s dedication to its protection. Because this is about more than technology; it's about preserving a legacy of airpower for the future.”