New images of B-21 Raider released as it begins ground engine tests
In the run up to its maiden flight later this year, Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force have released new images of the B-21 Raider heavy nuclear bomber as it begins ground engine runs at Northrop's Palmdale, California, facility.
Even though the B-21 will be the backbone of America's bomber force until the end of this century, both Northrop and the Air Force have been almost annoyingly coy as they tease details about the stealth aircraft in the lead up to its first flight over the skies of California by the end of 2023.
In a way, it's good marketing for both the American public and overseas observers as adversaries and allies try to figure out the characteristics of a piece of hardware that will play a major role on the global strategic scene. It also piques the interest of aviation sleuths who try to glean clues of new features from images that offer new angles of the aircraft. Expect lots of arguments about curves and dark areas on the hull.
Designed as the third leg of the US nuclear deterrent triad, the B-21 is notable not only for its cutting-edge stealth technology, it's also an extremely long-range aircraft that will be able to operate anywhere in the world from US territory without the need for forward bases. Along with nuclear deterrence, it can also carry conventional weapons, as well as carry out electronic warfare and reconnaissance missions.
The Air Force expects to buy at least 100 of the bombers, with the first scheduled to go into service in 2027. At first, it will work alongside the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and the B-52J Stratofortress, which it will replace sometime in the 2050s.
Source: Northrop Grumman