United States Air Force and Pentagon unveil new B-21 Raider stealth bomber in tightly controlled ceremony

America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber has made its debut after years of secret development, part of the Pentagon’s response to growing concerns about a future conflict with China.

The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber in over 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified.

As evening drew to a close at Air Force Base Plant 42 in Palmdale, the public got its first look at the Raider in a tightly controlled ceremony.

It began with three bombers still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit.

The hangar doors then slowly opened and the B-21 was pulled partially out of the building.

“This is not just another plane,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

“It is the epitome of America’s determination to defend the republic we all love.”

The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s effort to modernize all three parts of the nuclear triad, including silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads. .

China is aiming for 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its advances in hypersonic technology, cyberwarfare and space capabilities are “the most consequential and systemic challenge to US national security and the free and open international system,” the Pentagon said. week in its annual China report.

“We needed a new 21st century bomber that would allow us to take on much more sophisticated threats,” Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary, said in 2015. Ryder’s contract was announced.

While the Raider may resemble the B-2, the similarities are gone, said Kathy Warden, head of Northrop Grumman Corp, which will build the bombers.

a stealth bomber on stage with the US Air Force logo above it and a man speaking in the center
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin presented the bomber at its debut. (AP: Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“The way it works internally is very advanced compared to the B-2 because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capabilities that we can now put into the software of the B-21,” Ms Warden said.

Other changes include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber more difficult to detect, Austin said.

“This aircraft represents fifty years of advances in low-observability technology,” Austin said.

“Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have difficulty detecting the B-21 in the sky.

Other advances are likely to include new ways to control electronic emissions, allowing the bomber to fool enemy radars and disguise itself as another object, as well as the use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.

“It’s incredibly low watchability,” Ms Warden said. – You’ll hear, but you won’t really see.

The unknown cost of the bombers is a concern

Six Raiders are produced.

The Air Force plans to build 100 of these, which can deploy nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew.

The Air Force and Northrop also point to the relatively rapid development of the Raider: the bomber took seven years from contract to debut. Other new fighter and ship programs took decades.


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