The United States on Friday unveiled its new stealth strategic bomber, the B-21 “Raider”, a device capable of being operated without a crew and carrying out long-range nuclear strikes, just like use conventional weaponry.
The plane was presented in Palmdale, California, at one of its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman's sites, in an expertly choreographed ceremony, opened by the American anthem.
With great fanfare spotlights and dramatic music, the manufacturer has lifted the veil on this new aircraft, of which the Pentagon plans to buy at least 100 copies, at nearly 700 million dollars each.
“ The B-21 Raider is the premier strategic bomber in over three decades,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. A sign according to him that the United States continues to demonstrate “ingenuity and innovation”.
The US military does not want to reveal too much information about the capabilities of the B-21, many of whose technical characteristics remain secret.
But this new model, which should gradually replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers, whose first take-offs 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.
< p>Like most recent US military designs, including the F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, the B-21 will be stealthy.
“Even the toughest air defense systems Sophisticated aircraft will have difficulty detecting the B-21 in the sky,” Mr. Austin assured, explaining that the plane benefits from 50 years of American know-how in this area.
The aircraft also features an “open architecture” which 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, an American think tank based in Washington.
Its “open architecture” allows in particular “the future integration of software” capable of improving its performance, in particular its autonomy, “so that the aircraft does not become obsolete quickly.”
“The B- 21 is much more refined than its predecessors, really modern,” she added. Unlike the B-2 bomber, the aircraft has a “dual capability”: it can strike with both nuclear missiles and conventional weapons. But it can also “launch long and short range missiles.”
This state-of-the-art bomber can also fly without any crew on board, a feature that was not mentioned during its presentation in Palmdale.
An Air Force spokeswoman said confirmed to AFP that the plane “plans for this possibility, but no decision has been made to fly without a crew”.
The first flight of the B-21, of which Northrop Grumman is already working on the first six copies, is due to take place in 2023.
Its nickname, “Raider”, is inspired by the raid led by Colonel James Doolittle to bombard Tokyo in 1942, the first American strike on Japanese soil during World War II, in retaliation for the attack by Japanese aircraft on the Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii a year earlier.
The B-21 must become an element key to the American “nuclear triad”, made up of missiles and bombs that can be launched from land, sea or air.
“The bomber fleet allows the United States to be flexible and n nuclear deterrence and offers a guarantee in the event of problems with the other pillars” of this strike force, concludes expert Amy Nelson.