The US Air Force is looking to add the B-21 stealth bombers to its fleet. Recently, we reported that the first two bombers are ready to take to the skies. Now, the US Air Force has released artwork of what these new generation bombers are likely to look like.
The artwork was released along with a fact sheet providing further details of the B-21 Raider. Along with the B-52s, the B-21 will be key to US Air Force's prowess in the skies. The Raider is designed to enable Long Range strikes and play a role in surveillance and reconnaissance and is being designed with open systems architecture to enable the evolution of the aircraft with changes in threat levels in the future.
Honoring the Doolittle Raiders who surprised Japanese forces with attacks on their homeland during World War II, the B-21 Raider is slated to be the first bomber of the 21st century. Work on its Engineering and Manufacturing Development began in 2015 after the Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract by the US Air Force.
After completing a Critical Design Review in 2018, the Air Force announced that its Dyess Base in Texas, Whiteman Base in Missouri, and Ellsworth Base in South Dakota will be preferred locations for the B-21s. The Air Force Test Center at Edwards Base in California will test the aircraft initially. The recently released artwork depicts the aircraft against the backdrop of the Edwards Base.
While there is little that can be learned about the aircraft from its rendering, the windscreen configuration is quite conspicuous. A slanted narrow window is seen on the left side in this artwork apart from the main cockpit windows. It is safe to assume the slanted window occurs on the right side of the aircraft as well. The advantage of such a design is still unclear since it is likely to be below the pilot's eye line.
The Raider is capable of striking with conventional as well as nuclear weapons. Nuclear cruise missiles to be developed by Raytheon are expected to be part of the B-21s arsenal. The US Air Force is expected to procure at least 100 Raiders at an average cost of $639 million per unit.