The United States Air Force has publicly unveiled its next-generation stealth bomber, which it has dubbed the “most advanced military aircraft ever built.”
Pentagon officials and representatives from contractor Northrop Grumman unveiled the B-21 Raider Friday night in a dramatic ceremony in Palmdale, California.
When a crew pulled back the sail over the sophisticated bomber, a cheer went up from the crowd of invitees, excited to catch a glimpse of the aircraft for the first time after years of anticipation.
Similar in form to the B-2, a “flying wing” design already in the Air Force’s inventory, the B-21 will also be capable of delivering nuclear weapons around the world due to its long-term capabilities. distance and in the air to refuel.
Each B-21, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear bombs, was expected to cost about $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or about $750 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars.
Pentagon officials and representatives from contractor Northrop Grumman unveiled the B-21 Raider Friday evening in a dramatic ceremony in Palmdale, California
Similar in form to the B-2, a “flying wing” design already in the Air Force inventory, the B-21 will also be capable of delivering nuclear weapons around the world due to its refueling capabilities long distance and in the air
“This plane was possible because of American innovation,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the ceremony
The Air Force planned to purchase at least 100 of the aircraft and replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers.
The agency has estimated that the program will likely cost at least $203 billion over 30 years to develop, acquire and maintain the B-21 fleet.
Northrop beat a team consisting of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp when it won the contract to make the bomber in 2015 alongside suppliers including engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems and Spirit Aerosystems.
Northrop calls the aircraft a sixth-generation aircraft, given its ability to connect to other aircraft and easily integrate future weapons into its system architecture.
It also features more durable stealth material with a low observable surface that requires less maintenance and minimizes operational costs and downtime, Doug Young, industry vice president and general manager at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, told Reuters in an interview.
The U.S. Air Force finally unveiled its secret B-21 stealth bomber aircraft in Palmdale, California, on Friday.
The B-21 Raider will replace the $2 billion B-2 Spirit per aircraft – and has a smaller wingspan and a $639 million price tag. Unlike its predecessor, the B-21 can perform unmanned bomber and surveillance missions anywhere in the world
The rollout at Northrop’s Plant 42 in Palmdale yielded the first photos of the new bomber. Only artistic renderings have been published so far.
Six of the planes, which are due for their maiden flight in mid-2023, are in various stages of assembly. More than 8,000 people from Northrop Grumman, industrial partners and the Air Force are working today on the program, which consists of more than 400 suppliers in 40 states.
THE LATEST FEATURES OF THE B-21 FOR MODERN WARFIGHTING
The B-21s feature groundbreaking stealth technology based on more than three decades and six generations of American bomber innovation.
Northrop boasts that the new aircraft will incorporate advanced materials that will significantly reduce infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures, making it virtually undetectable.
The bomber’s stealth technology is expected to counter even the latest Russian and Chinese surface-to-air missiles, something “90 percent of the country’s current bomber fleet cannot do,” the company said.
The B-21 will also feature a digital bomb bay, allowing the aircraft to integrate new weapons faster than ever before. It allows the bomber to be easily and affordably upgraded.
An early artistic rendering of the aircraft is on display. Developers Northrop Grumman said the plane will also use AI-powered sensors to share data in record time with all branches of the military for coordinated strikes
The new system gives the aircraft the ability to be nuclear-powered and carry an estimated payload of 30,000 pounds of firepower.
In addition, the B-21 will come with AI-powered sensors, which Northrop said can identify enemy targets and share information with allies for coordinated strikes in record time.
The system will be able to share data with the Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force.
“The B-21 provides utility to meet our nation’s security objective in every conceivable scenario,” retired Air Force Lieutenant General David Deptula told the United States. Wall Street Journal. “No other weapon system can do that.”
“The B-21 is America’s Chinese deterrent bomber,” said Mark Gunzinger, a retired bomber pilot who flew the B-52.
A COMPLETELY REMOTE STEALTH BOMBERGER
Unlike its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, the B-21 Raider is expected to enable unmanned missions.
While current plans for the Raider include a crew of two, the Air Force has said future aircraft should be fully remote capable.
Northrop representatives called the B-21 “pioneering” and “technological excellence.”
“The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of breakthrough innovation and technological excellence,” said Northrop Sector Vice President and General Manager Dough Young.
A teaser for the unveiling of the B-21 Raider released by aerospace and technology contractor Northrop Grumman
HOW DOES IT COMPETE WITH RUSSIA AND CHINA?
The stealth aspect of the B-21 Raider is touted as its main asset against Russian and Chinese forces.
Like its predecessor, the B-21 is expected to be a subsonic aircraft, meaning it will fly slower than 768 mph.
That puts it at a notable disadvantage against China’s J-20 stealth fighter, which flies at more than 1,300 mph and is capable of carrying 24,000 pounds of cargo.
The B-21 will also be slower than the Russian SU-57, which can reach a top speed of 1,330 mph and was reportedly first used operationally in November when officials claimed it downed a Ukrainian airliner.
Despite its slow speed, Northup claims the B-21 will be one of the most undetectable aircraft in the sky, able to hide from another country’s radar system.
The Air Force plans to purchase at least 100 of the B-21 Raider. Pictured: A rendering of a jet aircraft released by the United States Air Force
Russia is currently touting the most capable surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, capable of shooting down stealth aircraft from 400 kilometers away.
China is currently using the HQ-17 SAM system, which can track 24 different targets and shoot down two at the same time from nine miles away.
While there are rumors that China has developed a new radar capable of detecting all stealth aircraft, these have been dismissed by military experts.
The Department of Defense has said a new generation of stealth bombers is needed for US national security duty, including deterring conflict in the South China Sea.
Developing story, more to follow.