The U.S. Air Force Has Released The First Official Pictures Of The B-21 Bomber In Flight

The debut of authorized images of the B-21 Raider nuclear bomber in flight by the United States Air Force marks a significant advancement for this pivotal military asset. Previously, unauthorized snapshots were taken by the public near California’s Edwards Air Force Base. These newly unveiled images provide an intricate view into the capabilities and design of the B-21.

Crafted by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 Raider is set to become a linchpin of the US nuclear deterrent force by the 2050s, augmenting both land and sea-based components. With a remarkable wingspan of 132 feet (40 meters) and an empty weight of 70,000 pounds (31,751 kilograms), the bomber embodies a stealthy essence, necessitating stringent security measures throughout its developmental and testing phases.

The transition from ground to flight tests for the B-21 occurred around November 2023, although the Air Force was initially reluctant to confirm this progress until video footage emerged on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter). The newly released images, captured by the B-21 Combined Test Force, show the aircraft in various states: inside its hangar, landing with wheels down, and in full flight.

These images reveal several design features, including a sharp nose, stealthy trailing edges of its flying wing fuselage, and radar-deflecting undercarriage covers. A red-painted pitot tube, used for gathering flight data during testing, and engine air inlets are also visible, along with an open hatch likely for an auxiliary engine intake.

The B-21 Raider is designed to enhance and eventually succeed the current fleet of B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, strengthening the airborne component of America’s nuclear triad. Featuring advanced stealth technology and high-speed capabilities, the B-21 is equipped to penetrate enemy defenses and deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads. The aircraft is anticipated to enter service by the mid-2020s, with a production goal of at least 100 units.

Air Force Service Acquisition Executive Andrew Hunter reported to the Senate that the flight test program is progressing well. He noted that the program is effectively uncovering the unique characteristics of the B-21, ensuring it meets its design and performance expectations as it advances toward operational readiness.

“We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well,” said Andrew Hunter in Senate testimony. “It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way.”

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