The US Department of Defense has unveiled its latest nuclear-capable stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider. The stealth aircraft was unveiled on Friday after the project remained in development in secrecy for years. The latest addition to America’s aerial fleet comes amid rising concerns over a possible conflict with China.The latest variant of the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) series of stealth bombers was unveiled at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
It is the first new bomber developed by the United States in more than 30 years and almost every aspect of the program remains classified. However, Chief Executive of Northrop Grumman, Kathy Warden, clarified that although the B-21 looks similar to the B-2 considering the external design, the similarities stop once the pilots are inside the cockpit.
“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,” Warden told reporters.
How is B-21 ready for modern warfare scenarios?
According to Pentagon Chief Llyod Austin, the bomber comes coated with advanced materials to make the bomber harder to detect. Austin further stated that at least “Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft,” while adding that “even the most sophisticated air defence systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky.”
Other additions to the technological aspect of the B-21 Raider include new ways to control electronic emissions. This enables the bomber to spoof enemy radars and disguise itself as another object. According to the US Air Force, the B-21 Raider is a dual-capable, penetrating-strike stealth bomber which is capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
“We will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production. And we will build the bomber force in numbers suited to the strategic environment ahead,” Secretary of Defense Austin stated.
B-21 Raider’s development a bid to counter China?
The B-21 Raider is part of the US DoD’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad including silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads. The development comes as the US shifts its focus from the recent counterterrorism campaigns to meet China’s rapid military modernization.
According to the latest report by the US Defense Department, China may possess 1,500 nuclear warheads by the year 2035. In its annual report released this week, the Pentagon stated that China’s gains in hypersonic, space and cyber warfare capabilities present “the most consequential and systemic challenge,” to America’s national security and the free and open international system.
Meanwhile, the tightly controlled ceremony introducing the new bomber included a flyover by three different variants of the LSR-B series that are still in service. These included the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit, following which, the B-21 was towed partially out of the hangar.
“This isn’t just another aeroplane,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love.”