The US Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 Raider stealth bombers, which come with a price tag of $700 million per aircraft.
The United States has unveiled its latest high-tech bomber – the B-21 Raider – which can carry nuclear payloads and can be operated without a crew.
A next-generation bomber was shot down at Northrop Grumman’s weapons manufacturing facility in California in a dramatic ceremony attended by US officials on Friday.
The US Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 aircraft, which comes with a price tag of $700m per aircraft, a Northrop Grumman spokesman said.
The revelation of the new bombs comes at a time of growing tensions between the US, Russia and China amid the war in Ukraine and the loyalty of Taiwan.
Russian and Chinese bombers conducted eight sorties over the western Pacific on Wednesday in a show of military cooperation between the two countries.
China’s Ministry of Defense called the operation “routine” to strengthen security ties with Russia.
Moscow and Beijing are also developing stealth bombers – China’s Xian H-20 and Russia’s nuclear-powered Tupolev PAK DA – which are expected to compete with the B-21.
Although the B-21 can take to the air without a pilot, the US Air Force said that the aircraft “has been given the option, but there has been no decision to fly without a crew”.
“The B-21 Raider is the first bomber in more than three decades,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in remarks prepared for Friday’s ceremony.
Austin adopted the aircraft’s style and classic design.
“There is no other long-range bomber who can match his skill,” Austin said.
Unveiled today, the B-21 Raider will be a dual-engine, single-entry bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons. The B-21 will form the backbone of the Air Force’s future fighter fleet consisting of B-21s and B-52s. (US Air Force photo) pic.twitter.com/X6KSU7sy6U
– US Air Force (@usairforce) December 3, 2022
“Fifty years of advances in stealth technology have gone into this aircraft,” he said.
“Even the most advanced air defense systems have difficulty detecting the B-21 in the sky.”
The B-21, which carries a similar “flying wing” design to its predecessor, will be able to carry nuclear weapons around the world using long-range and medium-range capabilities.
Northrop Grumman hailed the new aircraft as “the backbone of our future military”.
The aviation and maintenance company said that the first flight of the long-range bomber is expected to take place in 2023. Six long-range bombers are in various stages of assembly and testing at its facility in California.