Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

US Air Force shows B-21 stealth bomber in flight for the first time

Northrop Grumman’s 6th-generation aircraft is in the midst of a test flight program from Edwards Air Force Base in California

Almost 18 months after being officially revealed, the B-21 Raider stealth bomber had the first in-flight images released by the US Air Force.

The only aircraft in activity took off from Plant 42 in November 2023 and flew to Edwards Air Force Base, both in California. Since then, the B-21 has been carrying out test flights away from the spotlight.

On Wednesday, the USAF broke its silence and released three new images of the Raider in action. The first inside a hangar, the second taking off from Edwards and the third in a cruise flight, revealing for the first time the aircraft with the landing gears retracted.

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Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider (USAF)

“We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well,” said Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to a US Senate committee.

“It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way.”

Minimum production of 100 aircraft

Designed with extensive use of digital tools, the stealth bomber has no prototypes. The initial aircraft has already been equipped with mission systems and built on the same manufacturing line that will be used in the production of at least 100 aircraft.

Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider (USAF)

Raider also features an open systems architecture that will allow technological updates in short periods of time, in addition to costing much less than other previous programs.

The B-21 will gradually replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers and is expected to enter service in the middle of the decade, initially at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

The air bases at Whiteman, Missouri (home of the B-2s), and Dyess, Texas, could house new squadrons of the bomber in the future.


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