The Pentagon publicly debuted the United States' newest nuclear stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, after years of covert development, The Associated Press reports. The Raider is the nation's first new bomber aircraft in over 30 years.
Information about the development of the aircraft is mainly classified. Before it was unveiled on Friday at an Air Force facility, only artists' renderings of the plane were available. The Raider resembles its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit.
The warplane is part of the Pentagon's plan to deal with concerns over potential conflicts with China and Russia. The bomber's debut is key to the Pentagon's plan to modernize its nuclear technology, including "silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads," per AP. The Pentagon's efforts were spurred by the rapid modernization of China's military forces.
When the Raider's contract was announced in 2015, Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary at the time, said, "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. The B-21 is more survivable and can take on these much more difficult threats."
Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp, the company building the Raider, says the Raider's similarities to the Spirit stop at their appearance.
"The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21," Warden said.