This is what the future of the U.S. Air Force looks like, the sleek B-21 long range bomber. On Friday, the Air Force released the first image of the futuristic craft, which will be produced by Northrop Grumman.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James unveiled the artist’s rendering at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.
The B-21 was formerly known as the Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B for short. The B-21 can carry and deliver both conventional and thermonuclear warfare on any location in the world.
The B-21’s full capabilities have yet to be disclosed, but it is expected to feature long range, heavy payloads and possibly even a degree of autonomous capabilities. The craft may even have the ability to conduct electronic warfare and surveillance.
“The B-21 has been designed from the beginning based on a set of requirements that allows the use of existing and mature technology,” James said.
The state-of-the-art plane is expected to cost approximately $564 million, which is a bargain since its predecessor, the B-2 Stealth Bomber, cost about $737 million per unit.
There is expected to be 100 B-21 bombers built by Northrop Grumman.
The B-21, is being dubbed the military’s first bomber of the 21st century, is expected to enter service around 2025, barring any unforeseen delays.
The next-generation airplane resembles the current B-2 stealth bomber that was unveiled in 1997, which is also made by Northrop Grumman, but it appears the tail is a bit different.
The plane has yet to get a cool nickname such as other military planes such as the Stratofortress, Spirit, or Lancer, but Secretary James said service members will be given an opportunity to help name the bomber in the near future.
“This aircraft represents the future for our Airmen, and [their] voice is important to this process,” James said. “The Airman who submits the selected name will help me announce it at the [Air Force Association] conference this fall.”