For the first time in the last 30 years, the American military received a new stealth bomber – the B-21 Raider. Northrop Grumman, which developed the plane, first showed the silhouette of the shrouded plane back in 2015. Now the Pentagon has officially unveiled the B-21 at an event at the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale, California, but most details about the bomber are still under wraps. However, ahead of its unveiling, the company called it the “world’s first sixth-generation aircraft,” meaning it should be far more technologically advanced than the military aircraft in service in the US today.
According to ABC News, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the event that “no other long-range bomber can match its [B-21’s] efficiency.” Austin also said that the plane has “fifty years of advances in low observable technology” and that even the most advanced air defense systems will have a hard time detecting the B-21 in the sky.
The aircraft was designed using next-generation stealth technology so it can remain invisible even to modern radars and air defense systems, Northrop Grumman said in a previous announcement. A company representative also said that the B-21 can fly in total stealth every day, reports Air and Space Forces Magazine, unlike the current model, which requires hundreds of hours of maintenance between missions. The aircraft will use a cloud-based digital infrastructure that is cheaper and easier to maintain, and the military can also quickly upgrade individual components to always be protected against new threats.
Northrop Grumman currently has six B-21s in various stages of production, but the US Air Force is expected to order at least 100 of the aircraft. The military will begin testing the stealth bomber in California sometime next year, with the first units entering service by the mid-2020s.