We know a lot about the US B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the United States Air Force is unveiling a new stealth bomber. The B-21 Raider is expected to be shown to the world on Friday.

The low-profile, next-generation strategic bomber is designed to eventually replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft and become the backbone of the United States Air Force’s bomber fleet.

Remarkably for a major weapons program, the B-21 arrived on time and reportedly within the $25.1 billion budget allocated to it by the US Air Force in 2010. Northrop Grumman, who developed the bomber, seems to have learned from the lessons learned from previous high-profile programs such as the F-35 and B-2 bombers.

The 34-year-old B-2 Spirit was a generation ahead of its time. The advanced materials covering the aircraft, combined with the shape of the airframe and engine intakes, ensured that the radar signature was minute, making it virtually “invisible” to radar.

This allowed the aircraft to perform long-range missions in highly defended areas with a good chance of mission survival, something other bombers such as the B-1 and the venerable B-52 would have little chance of succeeding in.

Undetected, the B-2 can destroy valuable targets deep in enemy territory with little to no warning.

What makes its successor, the B-21, so special?

More of the same?

The program is highly classified and Northrop Grumman has released few details about the project, but some information has leaked out in published reports.

The B-21 Raider clearly borrows many of its designs from its predecessor, such as the flying wing concept with its engines embedded and configured to efficiently reduce its radar signature.

The airframe is slightly smaller than the B-2: its payload – the amount of ammunition, bombs and missiles it can carry – is almost halved.

It’s not particularly fast – designed to fly at high subsonic speeds – and it’s not the giant leap forward that the B-2 stealth bomber was when it launched. first introduced in 1988.

However, it is considerably cheaper, both to purchase and to maintain. The B-2 was terribly expensive to keep airworthy and the B-21 will significantly reduce the toll in money and man hours required for maintenance. Cheaper aircraft are more often bought in larger numbers. One hundred aircraft are initially planned for production and that number is likely to increase if costs can be kept down.

What’s new?

While stealth is an important feature, it is by no means the only quality of the B-21. What the Air Force and the US military as a whole have been working on is a powerful, distributed network of long-range sensors and strike platforms that transmit and share massive amounts of data about the enemy they are fighting.

The B-21 fits perfectly into this new strategy network, capable of gathering intelligence on a potential enemy or area and launching an attack. In other words, it can collect and relay information to its own aircraft, satellites, radars, and more, and it’s also an offensive weapon that can destroy targets within its range.

Long-range strikes may be its primary mission, but the B-21 bomber will be able to gather and share intelligence, sending its own fleet of weapons that can in turn destroy multiple targets. In short, its “brain” is its most valuable asset, and the use of open-source software allows the aircraft to be easily upgraded, keeping it flexible, advanced and significantly extending its service life.

The aircraft can be flown in manned and unmanned configurations, and its internal weapons bays allow it to carry the latest long-range stealth missiles such as the JASSM (Joint Air to Surface Stand-off Missile) and other conventional and nuclear payloads.

Stealth threatened?

These attributes are all vital if the aircraft is to survive. There are already reports that advances in quantum radar allow stealth aircraft to be detected. China claims to have deployed a radar that the military says can detect the most inconspicuous aircraft, a claim rejected by Western experts.

Still, this is an area of ​​intense attention, especially given its obvious military applications. For decades, stealth aircraft dominated the skies, so with a quantum radar that actually worked, the significant advantages of US stealth aircraft would vanish overnight. Normally invisible and invulnerable aircraft could be detected and shot down.

Even without stealth, the B-21’s other features make it such a deadly aircraft. It can absorb information much faster than its rivals – meaning it knows where the enemy is and where its own resources are – fitting into a massive framework of deadly platforms that can destroy their targets from afar.

This ability to collect, absorb and assimilate massive amounts of data, the B-21’s extensive resources to keep up to date, and every sensor that is the latest and most powerful will make the Raider the most powerful weapon do what it was designed for.

Friday’s rollout of the B-21 marks the start of years of development, tweaking, refining and fine-tuning as the bomber undergoes constant testing, first on the ground and then in the air under a wide variety of conditions (before finally enlisted in the United States Air Force).

But it’s already on its way to becoming one of the weapons any would-be adversary will fear most, as there will be little to no warning of its arrival deep into an enemy’s skies. It is this deterrent factor that will be part of any nearby competitor’s thought calculus when considering military action.

China, which for decades has seen the stealth bombers of the United States, has now accelerated research into building its own, the Xian H-20 deep-penetration stealth bomber. The B-21 Raider will have its challengers.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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