The next-generation stealth bomber was rolled out at arm’s manufacturer Northrop Grumman’s facility in California during a flashy ceremony attended by top US officials on Friday.
The US Air Force plans to buy at least 100 of the B-21 aircraft, which comes with a $700m price tag per plane, a Northrop Grumman spokesperson said.
The unveiling of the new bombers comes at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions between the US, Russia and China amid the war in Ukraine and the territorial integrity of Taiwan.
Russian and Chinese strategic bombers flew a joint eight-hour patrol over the western Pacific on Wednesday in a display of ongoing military cooperation between the two nations.
China’s Defence Ministry called the mission a “routine” effort in bolstering defence ties with Russia.
Moscow and Beijing are also currently developing strategic stealth bombers – China’s Xian H-20 and Russia’s nuclear-capable Tupolev PAK DA – which are expected to compete with the B-21.
While the B-21 is capable of taking to the air without a pilot, the US Air Force said the aircraft is “provisioned for the possibility, but there has been no decision to fly without a crew”.
“The B-21 Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a prepared statement at Friday’s event
“No other long-range bomber can match its efficiency,” Austin said.