This artist’s rendering provided by the US Air Force shows a US Air Force graphic of the long-range attack bomber, designated the B-21. US Air Force via AP hide caption toggle caption US Air Force via AP US Air Force via AP WASHINGTON — America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber makes its public debut after years of secret development and as part of the Pentagon’s response to growing concerns about a future conflict with China. The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the show is classified. Ahead of its unveiling Friday at an Air Force facility in Palmdale, California, only artist renderings of the fighter jet have been released. Those few images reveal that the Raider resembles the black nuclear stealth bomber it will eventually replace, the B-2 Spirit. The bomber is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it transitions from the counterterrorism campaigns of past decades to rapid military modernization. from China. China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its achievements in hypersonics, cyber warfare, space capabilities and other areas present “the most significant systemic challenge to US national security and the free and open international system.” the Pentagon said. this week in its annual China report. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other guests will be on hand Friday to witness the public unveiling of the bomber. “We needed a new bomber for the 21st century that would allow us to deal with much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear one day facing from China, Russia,” Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, said when the Raider contract was announced. in 2015. “The B-21 is more survivable and can take on these much tougher threats.” While the Raider may look like the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities disappear, said Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., who is building the Raider herself. “The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of computing power that we can now integrate into the B-21 software,” Warden said. Other changes likely include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber more difficult to detect, new ways to control electronic emissions so the bomber can fake adversary radars and disguise itself as another object, and the use of new technology. propulsion, several defense analysts said. In a fact sheet, Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman said it is using “new manufacturing techniques and materials to ensure the B-21 defeats the anti-access and area denial systems it will face.” Warden couldn’t discuss the details of those technologies, but said the bomber will be stealthier. “When we talk about low observability, it’s incredibly low observability,” Warden said. “You’ll hear it, but you won’t actually see it.” Six B-21 Raiders are in production; The Air Force plans to build 100 that can deploy nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew. Both the Air Force and Northrop also point to the Raider’s relatively rapid development: the bomber went from contract award to debut in seven years. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades. The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously priced the purchase of 100 aircraft at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars, roughly $753 million today, but it’s unclear how much the Air Force is actually spending. The fact that the price is not public worries government control agencies. “It could be quite challenging for us to do our normal analysis of a major program like this,” said Dan Grazier, senior fellow for defense policy at the Government Oversight Project. “It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still on schedule before it actually flies. Because it’s only when one of these programs gets into the actual testing phase that the real problems are discovered. And that’s the point at which the schedules really start to slip, and costs really start to mount.” The Raider won’t make its maiden flight until 2023. However, using advanced computing, Warden said, Northrop Grumman has been testing the Raider’s performance using a digital twin, a virtual replica of the one being unveiled. The B-2 was also envisioned as a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, but the Air Force ultimately built only 21 of them, due to cost overruns and a change in the security environment after the fall of the Soviet Union. Fewer than that are ready to fly on any given day because of the aging bomber’s significant maintenance needs, said Todd Harrison, an aerospace specialist and managing director of Metrea Strategic Insights. The B-21 Raider, named after the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, will be slightly smaller than the B-2 to increase its range, Warden said. In October 2001, B-2 pilots set a record when they flew 44 hours straight to drop the first bombs in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. But the B-2 often makes long round-trip missions, because there are few hangars around the world that can accommodate its wingspan. That limits where the B-2s can land for necessary post-flight maintenance. And the hangars needed air conditioning—since the Spirit’s windows don’t open, hotter climates can cook the electronics in the cabin. The new Raider will also have new hangars, to accommodate the size and complexity of the bomber, Warden said.