US Air Force to unveil first new stealth bomber in 34 years, the B-21 Raider

First flight is likely to be conducted next year.
Ameya Paleja
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider

Northrop Grumman 

The U.S. Air Force will unveil its first stealth bomber in over 34 years. The B-21 Raider is set for an unveiling on December 2, its makers, Northrop Grumman said in a press release accompanied by a short teaser.

The U.S. Air Force's bomber fleet is aging. Developments in air defense systems used by adversaries mean that less than 10 percent of the fleet is now capable of penetrating advanced air defenses. The capabilities of the U.S. Air Force's famed B-1 and B-52s and, to a certain extent, the B-2s aren't enough to deliver the range and penetrability that the U..S. Air Force now needs.

This is where the B-21 Raider comes in

Much about the B-21's capabilities has remained under wraps. Previously, Interesting Engineering has reported that the aircraft will be dually capable - meaning it will carry conventional as well as nuclear payloads.

That the contract for the B-21 has been awarded to Northrop Grumman, the same company that built the B-2 Spirit and supplies the stealth system on the F-35, means that the B-21 could be expected to deliver the best stealth capabilities.

Reports also suggest that the U.S. Air Force has plans to acquire 100 such aircraft meaning that it will occupy a prime position in the Air Force's attack strategies in the near future.

Now that Northrop Grumman is officially rolling out the aircraft, we are closer to its first flight than ever before.

B-21 Raider to be airborne soon

Interesting Engineering has been covering the smallest of updates that come out of the Northrop Grumman stable about the B-21, and we know that the assembly of six B-21 Raiders is currently in progress at the company's Palmdale facility in California.

This is major progress from our previous report in March, where only one aircraft had been assembled and moved to calibration testing. Following the unveiling, Northrop Grumann knows that all eyes will be on the B-21, and it is likely that the company will quickly move through the next steps of the process before it becomes airborne.

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These would include engine tests after the powerplant has been added, verifying the performance of the hydraulics during low-speed and high-speed taxis. Following this, the first flight can be expected, and the U.S. Air Force has confirmed that is scheduled for 2023. Although this is delayed from the original plan of a test flight in 2022, it is unlikely to dent U.S. Air Force's long-term plans for the aircraft.

After Northrop Grumann begins rolling out the B-21s, the stealth bomber is expected to be strategically deployed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. This could happen as early as the mid of this decade, although Northrop Grumman remains tight-lipped about that too.

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