Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider

America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber was unveiled for the first time on Friday. The B-21 Raider is America’s first new bomber in more than 30 years and is part of the Pentagon’s response to growing concerns about future conflict with China. Almost every aspect of the program is classified.

As the sun set over Plant 42 in Palmdale, the public got their first glimpse of the Raider bomber in a tightly controlled ceremony. First, three bombers were still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit. Then, the hangar doors slowly opened and the B-21 partially exited the building. “This is not just another plane,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “This is a testament to America’s determination to defend the republic we all love.”

The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize its nuclear triad. This includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles, submarine-launched warheads, and other actions. This change is necessary to face China’s rapid military modernization. China is on track to acquire 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its advances in hypersonics, cyberwarfare and space capabilities are “the most consequential and systematic challenge to the national security of the United States and the free people.” The Pentagon said this week in its annual China report.

Wartime Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, “We needed a new bomber for the 21st century that would allow us to take on much more sophisticated threats, such as the ones we fear will one day let’s face it.” China and Russia come in. The Raider deal was announced in 2015.

Kathy Warden, CEO of Northrop Grumman Corp. While the Raider may look similar to the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities stop, said the company that makes the bomber.

“The way it works internally is very advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology is so advanced in computing capability that we can now embed in the B-21 software,” Warden said.

Austin said other changes include advanced materials used in the casings to make it harder to identify the bomber.

“Fifty years of advances in low visibility technology have gone into this aircraft,” Austin said. “Even the most advanced air defense systems have trouble detecting a B-21 in the sky.”

Other improvements are likely to include new ways to control electronic emissions, so the bomber can spoof enemy radars and disguise itself as another object, and new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.

“Visibility is very low,” Warden said. You will hear it, but you will not see it.

Six Raider is in production. The Air Force plans to build 100 aircraft that can deploy nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew. The Air Force and Northrop also point to the relatively rapid development of the Raider: the bomber made its debut within seven years of the contract. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades.

The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously put the average cost at $550 million each in 2010 — roughly $753 million today — but it’s unclear how much it cost. The total depends on how many bombers the Pentagon buys.

We will soon fly this aircraft, test it and put it into production. And we will build the bomber force in numbers appropriate to the strategic environment ahead.” Austin said.

Undisclosed costs trouble government watchdogs.

“It can be a big challenge for us to do our normal analysis of a large program like this,” said Dan Grazier, senior defense policy expert at the Government Oversight Project. It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still in the program before it flies. Because it is only when one of these programs enters the real testing phase that real problems are discovered. That’s when schedules start to slip and costs rise, he said.

The B-2 also had a projected fleet of over 100 aircraft, but the Air Force built only 21 of them due to cost overruns and the changing security environment after the fall of the Soviet Union. Due to the significant maintenance needs of the older bomber, fewer are ready to fly each day.

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, named after the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, will make its first flight in 2023. This bomber is slightly smaller than the B-2 to increase its range. Warden said Northrop Grumman used advanced computing to test the bomber’s performance using a digital twin, a virtual copy of the prototype unveiled Friday. be stationed in bases in Texas and Missouri.

U.S. Senator Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, spearheaded the state’s bid to host the bomber program. He called it “the most advanced weapons system ever developed by our country to defend ourselves and our allies.”

Warden said Northrop Grumman also incorporated lessons learned from maintaining the B-2.

In October 2001, B-2 pilots set a record by flying 44 hours to drop the first bomb in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. The B-2 often flies long round-trip missions because few hangars worldwide can accommodate its wingspan, which limits landing sites for maintenance. The hangars also need to be air-conditioned because Spirit windows don’t open and hot weather can cook cockpit electronics.

The new Raider will also have new hangars to match its size and complexity, Warden said.

However, with Raider’s wide range, Austin said, “it won’t need to be made in theaters.” “It will not need logistical support to keep any target at risk.”

The last noticeable difference was in the first game itself. While both went public at Palmdale, the 1988 B-2 was the subject of public outcry. Due to advances in surveillance satellites and cameras, the Raider became partially visible, keeping its propulsion systems and sensitive sensors below the pod, shielding overhead eyes.

“The magic of the stage is what you don’t see,” Warden said.

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