US set to unveil B-21 bomber that can carry nuclear weapons

Russian Su-25 pilot ejects from aircraft after being hit

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The US Air Force is finally set to unveil the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, that can carry nuclear weapons, following years of its development in total secrecy. The stealth bomber is a dual aircraft that can launch conventional or nuclear weapons and exceeds any other intercontinental strategic bomber in the US’ arsenal. It is set to “join the nation’s strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent”, while also “supporting national security objectives and assuring the nation’s allies and partners”, the US Air Force said in a statement.

After years of being shrouded in mystery, the Air Force is now set to officially roll out the secret bomber at Palmdale, California. This is the location where Northrop Grumman, the firm chosen to design the bomber, has been developing the top-secret programme. 

Its flying wing shape is expected to similar to the B-2 Spirit bomber, the older version which was developed over three decades ago, the Raider will be smaller and have a finer design. This will make it incredibly difficult for energy forces to sniff it out.

While images of mostly artistic renderings of the craft from different angles have surfaced online in recent weeks, excitement is growing as there is still much more to be revealed about the bomber’s design.

It is thought to be around 55ft long, with a 140-150ft wingspan and is capable of travelling at subsonic speeds.  It has a cost of around $550million (£458million) and has two to four engines.

The older Raider model, the B-2, has been used in nearly every conflict that the US has been involved over the last few years, from Kosovo to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Like this model, the B-21 is expected to be capable of carrying both precision-guided conventional and nuclear bomb payloads.

It is named after the April 1942 Doolittle Raid led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, which demonstrated the US’ was the first American air operation to strike the Japanese archipelago.

Doug Young, vice-president of Northrop Grumman’s strike division, said at an air, space and cyber conference, said at an airspace conference: “With the capability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world, this weapon system is critical to our national security. “

Northrop Grumman also said this week: “Developed with the next generation of stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities and an open systems architecture, the B-21 is optimized for the high-end threat environment.”


The development of the B21 comes as the US has been fighting it out with China and Russia in the race to develop a next-generation bomber.

According to Popular Mechanics, China currently only has one active bomber, called the Xian H-6. It was developed by the Soviet Union’s Tupolev Tu-16, which NATO knows as “Badger”.

But Beijing has reportedly been working on developing another stealth bomber since 2016. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is designing the bomber, which has been dubbed the Xian H-20. However, like the US’ B21, the new aircraft’s development has been shrouded in mystery and the AVIC has yet to unveil the craft.

Russia’s PAK-DA bomber has been under development since the early 2000s, and is set to replace its Cold War-era fleet of Tupolev Tu-22M “Backfire,” Tu-95 “Bear,” and Tu-160 “Blackjack” bombers.

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Under development by Tupolev, potential diagrams of the bomber were released earlier this year, as well as the internal nickname for the bomber – Project 80.

Project 80 is allegedly a subsonic flying wing with an unrefueled range of 9,300 miles. This could potentially deliver nuclear bombs on targets as far as North America.

The war in Ukraine may have sparked a renewed sense of urgency for Russia to press ahead with the development of its bomber project.

Like aircraft carriers, bombers are indicators of military might and only the US, China and Russia have both in their arsenal.


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