US Air Force releases new images of B-21 Raider nuclear-armed bomber

US Air Force releases new images of B-21 Raider nuclear-armed bomber
Upper angle view of the B-21 Raider
Upper angle view of the B-21 Raider
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Canopy view of the B-21 Raider
Canopy view of the B-21 Raider
Upper angle view of the B-21 Raider
Upper angle view of the B-21 Raider

In a teaser ahead of its first flight later this year, the US Air Force has released two new images of its B-21 Raider nuclear stealth bomber that provide new insights into the highly-classified US$692-million aircraft's design and capabilities.

On December 2, 2022, Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force gently lifted the lid on the top secret aircraft that will one day replace the American nuclear-armed bomber fleet. It was an invitation-only event, with the B-21 dramatically, though not clearly, lit and only one image released to the public.

Now, the Air Force has released two more images that were taken at the same time as the first. A close-up of the bomber's canopy and a full shot from a higher angle, they provide us with some clues about the B-21's design, which is still so tightly guarded that even its dimensions are a secret.

Designed with what the US government calls "unprecedented range," the B-21 Raider is intended to be able to carry out long-range missions from US territory without the need for forward bases and, perhaps, with little need for in-flight refueling. This range is so long that the Australian government has been advised to purchase the B-21 to operate from secure bases in the south of the country, yet be able to strike distant targets with conventional weapons.

The other facts about the B-21 that the Air Force has admitted to is that, aside from long-range strike missions, it can be used for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as for electronic attack, communications, and other functions. It also has a high degree of autonomy and AI that allows it to operate without a crew and as a control platform for drone swarms.

Canopy view of the B-21 Raider
Canopy view of the B-21 Raider

The new images confirm that the B-21 is an evolution of the B-2 Spirit bomber, combined with radical advances in stealth technology. The most obvious difference is the grayish white color of the new radar absorbent composite coating that is reported to be more effective and less fragile than the old coating.

The close up image shows that the coating is of a composite that looks more woven than assembled, with layers added like tape. This is particularly evident around the cockpit windows, which have a more curved shape than those on the B-2 for better scattering of reflected radar signals. The coating around the windows now covers all the joins and seams for even more stealth.

The upper angle image shows that the composite coating extends to the engine inlets. The engine nacelles are lower and blend more into the body, with the inlets contoured rather than sharply geometric, producing a smoother blended wing and fuselage. The engine itself is recessed well back from the inlet, likely to reduce the heat signature, and the nacelle fits more into the body.

Inside the inlet is what previously seemed to be part of the engine structure, but which is now revealed to be an inlet cover that is removable before flight. The tail can't be seen clearly, nor can the engine exhausts, but the tail structure seems to be more integrated into the wing and body instead of the distinct sawtooth configuration of the B-2, though the view isn't clear enough to say for sure. At the rear of the engines are some flat geometric structures that could be some sort of a port or satellite data link antenna arrays.

The Air Force plans to purchase at least 100 B-21s, with the first expected to go into service in 2027. The aircraft will replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers by 2040, and eventually the B-52 Stratofortress sometime in the 2050s.

Source: US Air Force

WOW we all are going to die.
Cool looking bomber, I love that it's a better & cheaper version of the B-2. While it can be flown un-manned, I feel like it was a poor decision to even give it a cockpit. No reason for the pilots to have to sit in the aircraft, likely could of got the price a couple hundred million cheaper (apiece), if they didn't make that mistake.
> grayish white color

Maybe it has a secondary function:

Better survivability against energy weapons.
A $700 million dollar drone? Ouch.
I wonder how much a second hand B-1B is going to be?
Is there some point made by revealing the latest tech weapons to the world? Or is it just showmanship?
Marco McClean
$700 million each. If we don't need these obscene things to keep us safe, then what are they there for? If we legitimately need them for defense, then all who are millionaires because of this industry, including elected officials who accept Northrop Grumman's campaign largesse, are revealed as conspiracists, racketeers, mass-murderers and traitors and should rot in prison instead of running around free and directing the country further into poverty and misery for their own gain and comfortable lives. Everyone could have a guaranteed basic income, decent medical care, free education to the limit of ability, and so on. But instead: billion-dollar toy war jets, 40-billion-dollar bathtub-toy aircraft carriers, massive private-profit prisons (the most-imprisoned nation on Earth) and as many as 65-percent (!) of Americans desperately living paycheck-to-paycheck and in fear of our families being kicked out onto the street at the first medical emergency or hiccup of our other-than-war job situation.
1stClassOPP - The reason can be summed up in 1 word.
EJ222 - The color likely reflects (hur hur) the high-altitude mission profile. Ditto the lack of the saw-tooth tail that the B-2 was given when the mission set changed from high to low-altitude. That color will be nearly impossible to pick out, day or night, at the altitudes that this thing is supposed to operate at.
the few get richer at the taxpayer expense of the rest of us getting poorer.
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