By Mike Stone
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Northrop Grumman Corp on Friday launched its new B-21 “Raider” jet, the first in a new fleet of long-range stealth nuclear bombers for the United States Air Force.
The B-21 was unveiled in a dramatic ceremony at Northrop’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, giving members of the public their first look at the new bomber.
The B-21, which has a similar “flying wing” shape to its predecessor, the B-2, will be able to deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons around the world using long-range and mid-air refueling capabilities.
The planes were projected to cost about $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or about $750 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars.
The Air Force planned to purchase at least 100 aircraft and begin replacing B-1 and B-2 bombers.
Northrop beat out a team made up of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp when it won the 2015 contract to make the bomber. Engine maker Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems and Spirit Aerosystems are among more than 400 suppliers in 40 states.
Northrop calls the aircraft a sixth generation aircraft given its ability to connect to other aircraft and easily integrate future weapons into its system architecture.
The B-21 also features a more durable, invisible surface material that will require less maintenance and minimize operating costs and downtime, Doug Young, industry vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, told RockedBuzz via Reuters. interview.
The presentation provided the first video and photographic images of the new bomber. Previously, only artist renderings were published.
Six of the aircraft, which will make their first flight in mid-2023, are in various stages of assembly. More than 8,000 people from Northrop Grumman, industry partners and the Air Force currently work on the program.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by David Gregorio and Lincoln Feast.)
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