Strategic bombers are powerful and exclusive weapons that not every air force can get. Nowadays, only Russia and the United States have this type of combat aircraft in their arsenal.
For all intents and purposes, it is a race – who will get the new-and-improved strategic bomber first. For the United States this is the B-21 Raider, under development by Northrop Grumman on top of the B-2 bomber. The B-21 should be a flying-wing- type aircraft with a wingspan of about 42 m.
The main goal for the developers is to minimize the visibility of the aircraft in the radad and thermal ranges. According to the preliminary reports, the B-21 should cost much less than its predecessor, only $ 550 million. However, the U.S. promising weapons are known to easily rise in prize during their development.
Much less is known about the strategic bomber being developed in Russia. Only project name is known: PAK DA, and it is an aircraft also made according to the “flying wing” scheme, taking into account the technologies of reducing its signature during flight. At the moment, the appearance of the aircraft has already been approved and tested for radar signature.
PAK DA will be portable of modern cruise missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads, including high-precision hypersonic long-range missiles. It is hard to compare the two warplanes, currently, as they are both veiled in secrecy. It is likely that in terms of stealth, the B-21 will significantly surpass the PAK DA, since the Americans have a lot of experience in this area.
Another potential advantage of the B-21 is their ability to detect air and ground targets, as the United States has been developing radars with AFAR for much longer.
Additionally, the B-21 power plant, based on the latest technical solutions of the F135 or PW9000 engines, will also be better – the PAK DA power plant is made on the basis of the NK-32 engine developed in the late 1970s. A potential advantage of the Russian vehicle may be the presence of decimeter L-band antennas, which provide detection of low-signature aircraft, which partly compensates for the greater radar signature of the PAK DA compared to the B-21.
A serious drawback of Russian combat aircraft is the lack of small-sized interceptor missiles capable of hitting enemy air-to-air missiles with a direct hit.
Both B-21 and PAK DA should also include the unmanned flight mode and will be able to carry long-range subsonic cruise missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads, as well as promising hypersonic weapons.
Meanwhile, Moscow could have the upper hand in terms of hypersonic weapons.
Thus, the U.S. B-21 has better stealth, and more efficient engines, and the best AFAR radars. This comes in addition to compact anti-missiles, and laser self-defense weapons. In conclusion, it should be considered that the advantage of a particular platform can only be proved by its long-term operation, since technologically sophisticated models risk reducing overall efficiency as they are less convenient to operate.