The United States unveils its new B-21 stealth bomber

Sylvie Claire / December 4, 2022


The United States unveiled on Friday its new strategic stealth bomber, the B-21 "Raider", an aircraft capable of unmanned operation and long-range nuclear strikes, as well as conventional weaponry.
The aircraft was presented in Palmdale, California, at one of the sites of its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, during a skilfully choreographed ceremony, opened by the American anthem.
With the help of projectors and dramatic music, the manufacturer lifted the veil on this new high-tech aircraft, which the Pentagon plans to buy at least 100 of, at nearly 700 million dollars each.
"The B-21 +Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades," said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. A sign according to him that the United States continues to show "ingenuity and innovation ». 
The U.S. Army does not wish to reveal too much information about the capabilities of the B-21, many of whose technical characteristics remain secret. But this new model, which will gradually replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers -whose first takeoffs date back to the Cold War-, should present significant advances compared to the existing fleet.
The new aircraft has "a range that no other long-range bomber can match," Austin said, also assuring that the aircraft is one of the most durable bombers ever created.
Like most of the U.S. military's recent models, including the F-22 and F-35 fighters, the B-21 will be stealthy.
Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have trouble detecting the B-21 in the sky," Austin said, explaining that the aircraft benefits from 50 years of American expertise in this area.
The aircraft also has an "open architecture" that should allow it to easily accommodate "new weapons that have not yet been invented," he added.
The bomber is "designed to evolve," commented Amy Nelson, an expert at the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think tank based in Washington.
In particular, its "open architecture" allows for "future integration of software" capable of improving its performance, including its range, "so that the aircraft does not become obsolete quickly."
"The B-21 is much more worked on than its predecessors, truly modern," she added. Unlike the B-2 bomber, the plane has a "dual capability": it can strike with nuclear missiles as well as conventional weapons. But it can also "launch long-range and short-range missiles."
This state-of-the-art bomber can also fly unmanned, a feature that was not mentioned during its presentation in Palmdale.
An Air Force spokeswoman confirmed to AFP that the aircraft "foresees this possibility, but no decision has been made to fly unmanned."
The first flight of the B-21, of which Northrop Grumman is already working on six initial examples, is scheduled for 2023.
Its nickname, "Raider," is inspired by the raid led by Colonel James Doolittle to bomb Tokyo in 1942, the first American strike on Japanese soil in World War II, in retaliation for the Japanese air force's attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a year earlier.
The B-21 should become a key element of the American "nuclear triad", composed of missiles and bombs that can be launched from land, sea or air.
"The bomber fleet allows the United States to be flexible in terms of nuclear deterrence and offers a guarantee in case of problems with the other pillars" of this strike force, concludes expert Amy Nelson.
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