The U.S. Air Force plans to unveil the "most advanced" aircraft this week, the B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber, at the Northrop Grumman facility in Palmdale, California. The bomber was designed to carry out long-range bombing and nuclear missions employing cutting-edge stealth technologies.
"The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence," said Doug Young, Northrop vice president and general manager. "The Raider showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people working every day to deliver this aircraft."
The plane is said to utilize previously unseen stealth technology to avoid detection from enemies, and can fly with or without pilots, according to Defense One.
Northrop Corporate Vice President Thomas H. Jones said the plane was "optimized for operations in highly contested environments."
Jones told Defense One the development project involved more than 8,000 people across 40 states.
The Air Force has kept much of the effort a secret so China, Russia, and other adversaries are not able to copy the B-21 design or come up with ways to shoot it down, according to Defense One. The plane has been designed with a new generation of stealth technology to evade radar detection. It eventually will be able to carry both nuclear and conventional bombs.
The Air Force has called the B-21 a sixth-generation aircraft, the most advanced plane on the planet.
The plane is expected to fly for the first time next year, and five other aircraft are in various stages of assembly, Defense One reported. Air Force leaders say the service plans to buy at least 100 of the bombers. The Pentagon's 2023 budget request shows the Air Force plans to spend $19.1 billion on B-21 aircraft between fiscal 2023 and 2027.
Some employees have been working on designing the new bomber for more than a decade. The B-21 production line never shut down throughout the pandemic.
"Working through all the turmoil of that and still successfully putting this aircraft together. I'm just so proud of the work that they've done, and the excitement on the manufacturing floor and engineering spaces is palpable," Jones said to Defense One.
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