The US Air Force (USAF) released a third rendering of its upcoming B-21 Raider stealth bomber, being developed by Northrop Grumman.
The new rendering brings the aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where the 420th Flight Test Squadron will be in charge of all flight and ground testing of the B-21 Raider. It confirms that unlike its flying wing predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, it will trade the characteristic hawk-beak profile for a flat, streamlined nose.
The USAF plans to incrementally replace the B-2 and the B-1 Lancer bombers to create a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. “Nuclear modernization is a top priority for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, and B-21 is key to that plan,” commented Randall Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director in a statement.
The maiden flight of the first Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber (LRSB) is expected to take place in early 2022. Once it enters production, its acquisition should be accelerated to speed up the B-1 and B-2 retirement. In 2010, the USAF revealed it expected a cost of $600 million per B-21, against $1.180 billion for the B-2.