Northrop Grumman unveils the B-21 Raider, the future USAF strategic bomber

The B-21 Raider prototype as it was unveiled
U.S. Air Force photo

Northrop Grumman unveiled the B-21 Raider, a next-generation penetrating-strike stealth bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.

The aircraft was presented to the public during a ceremony on December 2, 2022, at the United States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. It was at this exact location that the rollout of its predecessor, the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, took place 34 years before.

“The B-21 Raider is the first strategic bomber in more than three decades,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said during the ceremony. “It is a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”

The prototype confirmed design changes that were seen in previous renders. The B-21 features two submerged inlets, also known as NACA duct, aimed at reducing the radar signature of the bomber as much as possible. 

The main landing gears only feature two wheels each, compared to the Spirit’s four. This comes as no surprise, as the Raider is expected to be smaller and lighter.

After undergoing ground testing, the B-21 Raider will make its maiden flight in 2023. Six copies are currently being assembled, according to Northrop Grumman.

A hundred copies of the upcoming B-21 are expected to be eventually ordered, which is more than the fleets of B-1s and B-2s combined.

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