New B-21 Stealth Bomber Revealed

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The Air Force's new long-range stealth bomber will be designated the B-21 and the first artist renderings of the aircraft show an angular flying wing with recessed engines and a smooth elongated teardrop fuselage. Reuters reported the bomber drawings were unveiled by U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James at the annual Air Warfare Symposium. The name of the half-billion-dollar-plus bomber will be chosen in a contest among service members, she said. The aircraft, which will form the core of the Air Force's strategic bombing capability, will be built by Northrop Grumman. Overall cost of the program, which includes 100 aircraft, is expected to be about $80 billion, but the Air Force has said it's paying $511 million for each aircraft in 2010 dollars. 

The program has been shrouded in secrecy for security and because of the bidding process but the Air Force has promised to provide more detail on the aircraft, its systems and capabilities next month. Some of the secrecy was lifted when Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which lost the contract to Northrop Grumman, announced they were dropping legal and procedural protests over the bid process. Legislators want a more transparent development process than the secretive one that led to cancellation of the B-2 program after only 21 of 132 aircraft were built.