PALMDALE — The public has another view of the secretive B-21 Raider stealth bomber, under development by Northrop Grumman in Palmdale, as the Air Force released new photos of the initial aircraft last week.
The bomber, still shrouded in secrecy, was unveiled on Dec. 2 in Palmdale. Few details or photos have been made public.
The B-21 will eventually replace the B-1B and B-2 stealth bomber in the nation’s bomber fleet.
The new bomber will be the “future backbone of the bomber fleet,” Air Force Global Strike Commander Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere said in a speech at the 2023 Air and Space Forces Warfare Symposium in Colorado on March 7.
The bat-wing bomber, which looks very much like its B-2 Spirit stealth bomber predecessor, will be capable of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons.
The Air Force plans a fleet of at least 100 of the bombers, which will be built in Palmdale at Northrop Grumman’s facility at Air Force Plant 42. However, Bussiere said long-range planning targets 220 or more of the bombers in the fleet.
The B-21 is “on track to deliver operational aircraft to its first main operating base in the mid-2020s,” Bussiere said, and is meeting cost, schedule and performance criteria.
While it looks similar to the B-2, the new bomber features advances in stealth technology and other improvements intended to make the B-21 easy to maintain and be ready to fly daily.
It is also designed to easily add new hardware and software to allow it to adapt to new threats.
“The technologies that are integrated and the open architecture system will provide any potential capabilities to advance, modernize and keep that weapon system on the leading edge of a threat in the future,” Bussiere said.
Six of the stealthy B-21 test aircraft are in various stages of final assembly at the company’s Palmdale facility.
The bomber is expected to make its first flight this year, likely to Edwards Air Force Base, where testing of the new bomber will be conducted.
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