U.S. Air Force reveals first image of B-21 stealth bomber

By Doug G. Ware   |   Feb. 26, 2016 at 3:29 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force on Friday released the first image of its future Long-Range Strike Bomber -- an aircraft that has been given the designation B-21.

The LRS-B, to be manufactured by Northrop Grumman, strongly resembles the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which has been in service for nearly 20 years.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced the new bomber at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., Friday and the Air Force revealed the first image, an artist rendering, of the proposed bomber on its website.

The aircraft, which had been rumored to carry the designation B-3, will be designated B-21 as the Air Force's first stealth bomber of the 21st century. It will feature technology the Air Force says will allow pilots to fight modern threats, and launch from the United States to strike anywhere in the world.

"The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh said earlier this month. "There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats... the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new."

The B-21 will also receive a name chosen by Airmen, which will be revealed later this year.

"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."

James and Welsh told Congress earlier this month the Air Force needs to modernize and that aim is one of the branch's top priorities.

"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 aircraft recently entered the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and the Air Force plans to field the initial capability of the aircraft in mid-2020s, officials said.

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