B-21 Raider Advances in Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base

New Photos Reveal Rare Glimpses of the U.S. Air Force's Next-Generation Stealth Bomber
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 11:09 AM, May 24, 2024
  • 1673
B-21 Raider Advances in Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base
B-21 Raider @U.S.A.F.

The B-21 Raider has commenced flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, marking an important step toward its integration into the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet.

On May 22, the Air Force released new images of the B-21 Raider, the first official photos since its maiden flight last year. Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer, followed with another photo the next day. These rare images show the bomber taking off, in flight, and in a hangar at Edwards, providing a glimpse of the highly classified aircraft. Since its unveiling in December 2022, only a few photos have been released, with most publicly available images captured by local spotters and photographers, as the Air Force did not release photos from its first flight on November 10, 2023, or subsequent test flights at Edwards.

B-21 Raider Advances in Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base
B-21 Raider @U.S.A.F.

The 412th Test Wing at Edwards, in a recent statement, echoed Air Force acquisition executive Andrew Hunter's earlier comments that the B-21’s test flight program is progressing well. Hunter noted that the program is effectively revealing the platform's unique characteristics, with more key testing milestones expected this year. The exact number of completed test flights remains undisclosed. The B-21, designed to carry both conventional and nuclear munitions, has a projected wingspan of about 140 feet, smaller than the B-2’s 172 feet. The Air Force plans to procure at least 100 B-21s to replace its current fleet of 45 B-1s and 20 B-2s over the next decade.

B-21 Raider Advances in Flight Testing at Edwards Air Force Base
B-21 Raider @U.S.A.F.

Hunter emphasized the B-21’s advanced digital integration, aiding in meeting program requirements. This long-range, stealth bomber, designed under Northrop Grumman's contract, features an open systems architecture to adapt to evolving threats. It is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s, with production aiming for at least 100 units. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office oversees the acquisition, ensuring test aircraft closely resemble production units, using the same manufacturing processes. Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota will be the first main operating base and training unit for the B-21, with Whiteman AFB in Missouri and Dyess AFB in Texas as preferred subsequent bases.

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