The U.S Air Force has finally unveiled its much anticipated B-21 Raider stealth bomber which is claimed to be the "most advanced military aircraft ever built". But it will take its first flight only in 2023.
Manufactured by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 Raider is touted as Air Force's first new bomber in over 30 years. It is the world's first sixth-generation aircraft. This describes the high-tech aircraft's technological sophistication.
The B-21 is part of the Pentagon's efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from recent decades of counterterrorism campaigns to meet China's rapid military modernization.
A New Bomber for the 21st Century
Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015, said there was a need for a new bomber. "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. The B-21 is more survivable and can take on these much more difficult threats."
Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., said the Raider may resemble the B-2. But when one gets inside the aircraft, the similarities stop. "The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21." Moreover, Warden said the bomber will be stealthier. "When we talk about low observability, it is incredibly low observability. You'll hear it, but won't really see it."
Northrop Grumman has used new manufacturing techniques and materials to ensure the B-21 will defeat the anti-access, area-denial systems it will face. Other changes include advanced materials used in coating to make the bomber harder to detect, and new ways to control electronic emissions.
As such, the aircraft can spoof adversary radars and disguise itself as another object and use new propulsion technologies. The B-21, as per a Northrop Grumman fact sheet, will feature advanced networking capabilities meaning that the stealth bomber will be able to coordinate and communicate with other assets including satellites, ground stations and other aircraft that may include uncrewed long-distance wingman drones â designed specifically for the B-21.
Air Force Plans to Build 100 Bombers
With six B-21 Raiders aircraft currently in production, the Air Force plans to build 100 that can be used with or without human crew. This is projected to cost around $750 million each. To get deliver the bombers, Northrop Grumman has deployed a team of more than 8,000 from the company, industry partners and the Air Force, including more than 400 suppliers from across 40 states.
The B-21 Raider stands out with its stealth capabilities. It should be noted that stealth technologies are some of the most sensitive and classified in the U.S's military's arsenal. As such, not much is known about the bomber's stealth systems. The Raider will also get new hangars given its size and complexity.