Nukey McMeltface and Other Would-Be Bomber Names

Sep 23, 2016

By James Drew

When U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James announced an internal naming competition for the Northrop Grumman B-21 in February, she may have underestimated the creativity of airmen and the pitfalls of public polling. Nukey McMeltface and Trump Bomber were among more than 2,100 submissions to a list that was released by the air branch on Sept. 22 after a number of freedom of information requests were filed seeking the document.

The responses ranged from historically informed to odd, witty and downright inappropriate, with airmen requesting the names Death Star, Meme Machine, Chuck Norris, Taxslayer and Mecca Wrecka. There were nods to late U.S. special forces sniper Chris Kyle, Star Wars, World of Warcraft, the Bible and Greek mythology. Other proposals patriotically played up the next-generation nuclear stealth bomber's role in advancing America’s global military supremacy.

The Air Force took suggestions from March to May, narrowly missing out on the "Justice for Harambe the Gorilla" craze currently sweeping other public naming competitions. The much-loved silverback gorilla was shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo after submissions closed.

On Sept. 19, the Air Force announced B-21 “Raider” as the winner, in honor of the Doolittle Raiders of World War II. In pronouncing the name at the annual Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference in National Harbor, Maryland, the service gave up its last reason for not making the full list of submissions public. Because the competition was run by the government, the list is an official, unclassified government record. The service had been slow to release the document because it contained "predecisional" information.

Although most aspects of the B-21 program are steeped in secrecy, this document gives bomber observers at least 2,100 reasons to smile. Air Force leadership knew the list wouldn't be pretty, but it cannot be happy about making submissions such as "9/11 Coverup, Trump-nator, Dank American Bomber, and God's Sky Toy" public.

Many genuinely good names were put forward, such as Apparition, Maelstrom, Nightraider, Havoc and Zeus, as well as more ominous suggestions: Nemesis, Neutralizer and Crusader.

Pop culture references included Rosebud, which was Charles Foster Kane’s (Orson Welles) dying word in the 1941 movie Citizen Kane. Skrillex's "Bangerang" club song made the list, as did “Spirit II: Electric Boogaloo,” which rips of the title of the 1984 indie dance film "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo." "Zero Gravity" also made the list, since some theorists claim Northrop's B-2 Spirit employs anti-gravity technology.

Other suggestions targeted the bomber’s estimated $80 billion price tag, specifically: Costbuster, Dollar Black Hole and Cost Overrun.

Dozens of names played off the UK's attempt at naming a polar research vessel, in which Boaty McBoatface emerged as the winner. James and her Chief of Staff wisely retained the right to select the name instead of holding a ballot, rejecting popular choices such as Stealthy McStealthface, Bombypants McGee and McLovin.


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