US offers first glimpse of stealthy B-21 bomber

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B-21 bomber

The United States Air Force, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman, Friday unveiled B-21 Raider — the new 6th generation stealth bomber — during a ceremony at the company’s site in Palmdale, California.

The B-21 is much more modern than all of its predecessors. Unlike the B-2, it can be used to deliver both nuclear and conventional armed missiles. Furthermore, it also has the ability to launch long and short-range missiles.

The aircraft can be flown without having a single member of the crew on it. US Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told that the aircraft is provisioned for the possibility but there has been no decision to fly without a crew.

A single B-21 plane cost nearly $700 million. The aircraft, having a very light grey colour, appears notably smaller than the B-2 when viewed as a whole head-on. The aircraft is an extremely efficient design, which will lend itself to the great ranges it will have to fly.

On 19 September 2016, Air Force officials announced that the B-21 would be named “Raider” in honour of the Doolittle Raiders. The Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, was an air raid on 18 April 1942 by the United States on the Japanese capital Tokyo and other places in Honshu during World War II. It was the first American air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago.

Remarks by US Secretary of Defence

Glorifying the US capabilities in the field of technology, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said: “The B-21 Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”

Talking about the range of the B-21 Raider, he said: “No other long-range bomber can match its efficiency. It won’t need to be based in-theater. It won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk.”

Concerning the stealth of the B-21, he added: “Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft. And even the most sophisticated air-defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.”

 He further remarked in his speech: “We really don’t have a capability unless we can maintain it. And the B-21 is carefully designed to be the most maintainable bomber ever built.”

Highlighting the features of Raider, he told: “The Raider was built with an open-system architecture, which makes it highly adaptable. So as the United States continues to innovate, this bomber will be able to defend our country with new weapons that haven’t even been invented yet.” 

This open-system architecture allows the manufacturers to install the upgrades quickly in it.

The first flight of B-21 is expected in 2023 but when the new bomber will be ready for service it’s still not clear: it was initially expected to enter service around 2026 or 2027. 

Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, is being preferred for its first main operating base while Dyess AFB, Texas, is kept as an alternative. 

Currently, at least six examples of the B-21 are under construction at different US Air Force Plants. This is just the beginning, it will take years to know the overall conceptual idea of the Raider as many elements of B-2 is still hidden from the world.