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The US’ most advanced strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider, could cut response time against China if based in the Pacific but the PLA would still be able to detect the warplane, according to analysts.
The B-21, the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft, would be rolled out on December 2, its manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, announced on Thursday. It would be the first public unveiling of a new US Air Force bomber since the B-2 Spirit’s debut in 1988.
Designed to be long range, highly survivable and capable of carrying a mix of conventional and nuclear ordnance, the B-21 Raider could penetrate the toughest defences to deliver precision strikes “anywhere in the world”, according to its manufacturer.
The B-21 Raider would give the US a “formidable” combat capability and would incrementally replace the B-1 and B-2 aircraft, becoming the backbone of the US Air Force bomber fleet, the Pentagon said last week.
But the debut of the B-21 would have a limited impact on the world military strategic order, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) equipment expert Fu Qianshao said.
Fu said that compared with the B-2 bomber, the B-21 will have a smaller combat radius and weapons capacity before having to refuel.
But he said it could be based in East Asia, particularly at US military airports along the first island chain that runs from the Japanese archipelago through the northwest Philippines to Borneo.