Stealth bomber B-21 that is ‘most advanced warplane ever’ unveiled

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The US Air Force has finally revealed its stealth bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons as it hails its “most advanced warplane” yet. The plane has been shrouded in secrecy for years while under development. The B-21 Raider, which looks set to cost on almost $700million (£570million) per plane, is a dual aircraft that can launch conventional or nuclear weapons and is more advanced than any other intercontinental strategic bomber in the American arsenal.

The plane marks the first aircraft to be unveiled in over 30 years. It will replace the B-1 and B-2, both of which have been in use for decades and have been involved in numerous conflicts.

An image of the B-21, released on the US Air Force’s Twitter page, has been likened to a flying saucer due to its shape, but a lot of the specific details of the plane are being kept a secret. 

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin unveiled the Pentagon’s super secret new bomber at Northrop Grumman’s plant on Friday. Northrop Grumman, the firm chosen to design the bomber, had been developing the top-secret programme at Palmdale in California.

But while much of the information about the aircraft is classified, it is still understood that its capabilities far surpass the existing bombers in the US fleet. The aircraft is reportedly capable of flying up to 6,000 miles before requiring refuelling, meaning it can hit targets deep behind enemy lines. The B-21 also has a 15-ton payload, while its super stealthy abilities also make it almost impossible for even the most advance air defences to sniff out. 

According to Northrop Grumman, the B-21 Raider is the “most advanced military aircraft ever built”.

Doug Young, vice-president of Northrop Grumman’s strike division, said at an air, space and cyber conference, said at an airspace conference last week: “With the capability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world, this weapon system is critical to our national security. “

The company has also said: “Developed with the next generation of stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities and an open systems architecture, the B-21 is optimized for the high-end threat environment.”

According to the US Air Force, the stealthy plane will be the “backbone” of the fate Air Force bomber force. 

It said on Twitter: “Unveiled today, the B-21 Raider will be a dual-capable, penetrating-strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The B-21 will form the backbone of the future Air Force bomber force consisting of B-21s and B-52s.”

 The aircraft is named after the April 1942 Doolittle Raid led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, which demonstrated the US’ was the first American air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago.

The B-2, the former model, has been used in nearly every conflict that the US has been involved over the last few years, from Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan. The older model was also capable of carrying both precision-guided conventional and nuclear bomb payloads, but the B-21 has a number of new capabilities. 

For instance, the new aircraft reportedly has the potential for unmanned flight, allowing pilots to fly it from American soil remotely. Analysts have also said that other changes would likely include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber more difficult to detect. The aircraft is also expected to use new propulsion technologies and new ways to control electronic emissions. 

Mr Austin, speaking at the craft’s big reveal, said that “50 years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft”. 

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He added: “America’s defence will always be rooted in deterring conflict. So, we are again making it plain to any potential foe: the risks and costs of aggression far outweigh any conceivable gains.”

This comes after former Air Force secretary Deborah Lee James, who held the position when the Raider contract was announced in 2015, said that a new bomber is needed to counter the potential future threats from Russia and China. 

She said: “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.”

While it is not exactly clear when the Air Force will decide to deploy the new plane, military analysts have speculated that the first one could enter operations by 2026 or 2027.

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