The Pentagon revealed its first new bomber aircraft in 30 years on Friday in Palmdale, California, the nuclear stealth bomber B-21 Raider, The Associated Press reported.
Before the B-21 was unveiled from its hangar door at Air Force Plant 42, the public was treated to a flyover event of the three U.S. bombers still in service: the B-52 Stratofortress, the B-1 Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit.
"This isn't just another airplane. It's the embodiment of America's determination to defend the republic that we all love," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated.
According to defense analysts, among the changes from prior models are updated computing ability, an advanced coating to make the bomber harder to detect, new ways to control electronic emissions, and utilization of the latest propulsion technologies.
The bomber aircraft is part of the department's effort to modernize its nuclear triad, including silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads. It comes as the Pentagon warns China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035.
"This is an accelerating trend," a senior defense official told Politico. "We see that with the buildout of the silo fields, the creation of a nuclear triad, what they're doing with their sea bases and air components as well as the silos and their" mobile land forces.
Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James parroted the Defense Department's recent concerns regarding Beijing almost seven years ago when the contract for the B-21 was first announced.
"We needed a new bomber for the 21st century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia," James said.
There are currently six B-21 Raiders in production, with the Air Force planning to build 100 capable of deployment without a human crew and carrying either nuclear weapons or conventional bombs.
Although the aircraft's final cost remains unknown, the Air Force previously put the price at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010, AP noted.
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