Tech

Air Force unveils B-21 Raider stealth bomber

The U.S. military will unveil the U.S. Air Force B-21 Raider on Friday in Palmdale, California. 

The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than three decades and almost every aspect of the program is classified, with artist renderings showing that it resembles the B-2 Spirit. 

Manufacturer Northrop Grumman said that the rollout of the newest nuclear stealth bomber marked the first time the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft will be seen by the public. 

“When delivered to the Air Force, the B-21 will join the nation’s strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent; supporting national security objectives and assuring the nation’s allies and partners,” the company said in a release. 

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The nuclear triad includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads.

Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden told The Associated Press the way the B-21 operates is extremely advanced. 

This undated artist rending provided by the U.S. Air Force shows a U.S. Air Force graphic of the Long Range Strike Bomber, designated the B-21. 
((U.S. Air Force via AP))

The company said it is optimized for the high-end threat environment, using agile software development, advanced manufacturing techniques, digital engineering tools and cloud technology. 

Northrop Grumman said it is continuously working to ensure that the B-21 “will defeat the anti-access, area-denial systems it will face.”

Warden could not discuss the specifics of those technologies but said that the bomber will be more stealthy and slightly smaller than the B-2.

“When we talk about low observability, it is incredibly low observability,” she said. “You’ll hear it, but you really won’t see it.”

The B-21 Raider has yet to be unveiled.

The B-21 Raider has yet to be unveiled.
(Northrop Grumman)

Other changes likely include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber harder to detect, new ways to control electronic emissions and the use of new propulsion technologies, per several defense analysts.

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While six of the B-21 Raiders are currently in production, the Air Force plans to build 100 that can be used with or without a human crew. 

The cost of the bombers remains unknown – although it was projected to cost approximately $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or about $750 million in today’s inflation-adjust dollars – and the Raider will not make its first flight until next year.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press briefing after a virtual Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the Pentagon on November 16, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press briefing after a virtual Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the Pentagon on November 16, 2022, in Arlington, Virginia. 
((Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images))

The company has been testing its performance using a virtual replica.

Since the contract was awarded in 2015, Northrop Grumman assembled a team of more than 8,000 from the company, industry partners and the Air Force, consisting of more than 400 suppliers across 40 states.

 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other invited guests will be on hand Friday to witness the bomber’s public unveiling.

“We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia, ”  Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary, said in 2015. “The B-21 is more survivable and can take on these much more difficult threats.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.