The U.S. military will unveil the U.S. Air Force B-21 Raider on Friday in Palmdale, California.
The B-21 Raider is the first new U.S. bomber in more than three decades, and nearly every aspect of the program is classified, with artist renderings showing it to resemble the B-2 Spirit.
The launch of the latest nuclear stealth bomber marks the first time the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft will be seen in public, according to manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
“When delivered to the Air Force, the B-21 will join the national strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent; supporting national security objectives and ensuring the safety of the nation’s allies and partners,” the company said in a release .
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The nuclear triad includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads.
Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Worden told The Associated Press that the way the B-21 operates is very advanced.
The company says it is optimized for high-end threat environments, using agile software development, advanced manufacturing techniques, digital engineering tools and cloud technology.
Northrop Grumman said it is working continuously to ensure the B-21 “will defeat the anti-access, area-denial systems it will face.”
Warden could not discuss the specifics of those technologies, but said the bomber would be stealthier and smaller than the B-2.
“When we talk about low observability, it’s very low observability,” she said. “You’ll hear it, but you won’t really see it.”
Other changes could include advanced materials used in coatings to make bombers harder to detect, new methods of controlling electron emissions and the use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.
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While six B-21 Raiders are currently in production, the Air Force plans to build 100 that can be used with or without a crew.
The cost of the bombers remains unknown—although each bomber is expected to cost about $550 million in 2010 dollars, or about $750 million in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars—while the Raider It won’t make its first flight until next year.
The company has been using virtual copies to test its performance.
Since the contract was awarded in 2015, Northrop Grumman has assembled a team of more than 8,000 people from the company, industry partners and the Air Force, including more than 400 suppliers from 40 states.
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other invited guests will be on hand Friday to witness the bomber’s public debut.
“We need a new type of bomber for the 21st century that will allow us to deal with more complex threats like the ones we fear we will one day face China, Russia,’” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in 2015. “The B-21 is more survivable to deal with these much more difficult threats. “
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.