The US Air Force released three artist renders of its future strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider, currently under development at Northrop Grumman. The pictures reveal a few new elements regarding the future replacement of the B-1 and B-2.

Its general appearance could make one think that the B-21 is very similar to the B-2 Spirit it is due to replace, with its sleek flying wing design. But looking closely, several details differ.

The most notable difference is the two submerged inlets, also known as the NACA duct, aimed at reducing the radar signature of the bomber as much as possible. They were first developed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the precursor of NASA) and tested on the North American YF-93 experimental fighter jet. However, at the time, the design was abandoned as the intakes did not provide sufficient air to the reactors, reducing their power.

The nose also appears to be different, lacking the downward bent that gave the B-2 its characteristic hawk's-beak profile. This is likely due to the new streamlined trailing edge, simpler than its predecessor.

The main landing gears only feature two wheels, against four for the Spirit. This comes as no surprise, as the Raider is expected to be smaller and lighter, as reflected by a cheaper price per unit. In 2010, the USAF revealed it expected a cost of $600 million per B-21, against $1.180 billion for the B-2 [prices adjusted to 2020]. 

A hundred copies of the upcoming strategic bomber should eventually be ordered, which is more than the fleet of B-1s and B-2s combined.

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