The United States Air Force‘s B-21 Raider, a next-generation stealth bomber, successfully completed its first flight, taking off from Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California.
The B-21 Raider is envisioned as a dual-capable penetrating strike stealth bomber, adept at delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It is designed to be a core component of the future Air Force bomber force, operating alongside the B-52s.
The open systems architecture of the aircraft is a strategic design choice aimed at reducing integration risks and encouraging future modernization to adapt to evolving threats.
The B-21 program, led by the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office under the direction of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the Secretary of the Air Force, awarded the Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract to Northrop Grumman in 2015.
The program’s budgeting is based on 2010 figures, with each unit estimated to cost around $550 million at that time, translating to approximately $750 million today. The B-21 is expected to enter service by 2026, incrementally replacing the B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer strategic bombers. The USAF eventually expects to operate a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. It intends to order 100 of the strategic bomber, which is more than the fleet of B-1s and B-2s combined.