This provided the best look at the advanced stealth bomber to date.
One of the images, taken from an elevated point of view of the aircraft, provided a broader view of the wings as well as the upper portion of the fuselage.
It has been noted by observers that the overall fuselage of the B-21 follows the same “W” shape of the Northrop B-2 Spirit, but is slightly refined and tapered. It would be easy to see how the Raider is essentially an evolutionary follow-up to the Spirit.
The overall shape is similar, while the B-21 is a bit smaller in size – which isn’t to say is a bad thing. The images also provided a bit of a better look at the Raider’s deeply-recessed air intakes, meant to help make it maintain its stealth capabilities and to provide very low observability.
Seeing the B-21 Raider
The Air Force and Northrop Grumman officially unveiled the B-21 Raider in December at the defense contractor’s facility in Palmdale, California. It was the first new strategic bomber to be unveiled in a generation and the first since the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit made its public debut back in November 1988.
Though similar in appearance to the B-2 Spirit, the Raider is actually a generational leap in aircraft technology and development.
The bomber, which is scheduled to take its first flight later this year, is on track to enter service by the end of the decade. It was developed to be the multifunctional backbone of the modernized bomber fleet, gradually replacing the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers now in service, and eventually the B-52 Stratofortress.
A dual-capable penetrating strike stealth aircraft, the B-21 will be capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
“Maintaining our advantage requires a future design concept that serves our national security and defense strategies, our Joint Warfighting Concept, and recognizes the changing trends and tendencies in the character of war,” said General CQ Brown, Jr., Air Force chief of staff, to describe the B-21 Raider at the 2023 Air & Space Forces Association.
America’s Next Bomber
Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to produce the next-generation bomber in 2015, and the company moved quickly to assemble a nationwide team to design, test, and build the B-21.
The Raider – named for the 80 men who took part in the World War II “Doolittle Raid” on Tokyo in the spring of 1942 – was developed using the aerospace firm’s pioneering digital engineering practices and advanced manufacturing techniques together.
Currently, six prototype B-21 Raider bombers are now being manufactured, and each is being built on the same production line, using the same tools, processes, and technicians who will build the production aircraft.
This approach will enable the engineers and technicians to capture lessons learned and then apply those directly to follow-on aircraft. It will ensure a focus on repeatability, producibility, and quality, Northrop Grumman has stated.
Some 8,000 employees at the aerospace firm and various other defense contractors of all sizes spread across 40 states have been secretly developing the Raider.
— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) March 7, 2023
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.