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    Stealth Power: US Air Force B-21 Raider to Become Future Bomber Backbone

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    In a major development for U.S. air superiority, the U.S. Air Force has released new images of the B-21 Raider, a sixth-generation stealth bomber, showcasing the aircraft’s progress towards becoming the future backbone of America’s bomber fleet.

    The photos, captured against the backdrop of California’s Edwards Air Force Base, reveal the sleek contours and advanced design of the B-21 as it undergoes rigorous flight testing, including ground testing, taxiing, and flight operations.

    The B-21 Raider is engineered with cutting-edge stealth technology and designed to be a highly survivable, long-range penetrating strike bomber that will gradually replace the existing B-1 and B-2 bombers.

    According to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Andrew Hunter, the test program for the B-21 “is proceeding well,” reflecting the aircraft’s steady advancement toward operational readiness.

    Hunter further explained that flight testing is integral to understanding the platform’s unique characteristics “in a very, very effective way.”

    As a testament to its advanced capabilities, the B-21 is being developed with an open systems architecture that allows for rapid integration of mature technologies, ensuring the aircraft remains effective against evolving threats.

    This adaptable framework positions the B-21 to play a pivotal role in supporting U.S. national security objectives and demonstrating commitment to allies and partners worldwide.

    Northrop Grumman, the aerospace and defense company manufacturing the B-21, emphasizes that the bomber incorporates the latest stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities, and the potential for both conventional and nuclear payloads. These features cement the B-21’s status as one of the most formidable aircraft in the skies, capable of employing a wide array of stand-off and direct attack munitions.

    In terms of production, the B-21 is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s, with a minimum production goal of 100 aircraft.

    The B-21’s flight tests began at Edwards Air Force Base after its first flight from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale on November 10, 2023.

    The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office oversees the acquisition program, emphasizing the need to make test aircraft as close to production models as possible. These test aircraft are constructed on the same production line with the same personnel and tools intended for the final production run, enabling a faster transition to mass production.

    Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin said recently that the pace at which new technology is becoming available could mean the service moves on to a more advanced design, and that 100 aircraft may be the final fleet size for the B-21.

    A spokesperson confirmed that the B-21 flew again on January 17, 2024, and subsequent flights were rumored to have occurred in late March and early April, with the a recent confirmed flight on April 4, 2024.

    Upon entering service, the B-21 will be stationed primarily at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, with Whiteman AFB in Missouri and Dyess AFB in Texas also earmarked to house these technologically superior bombers.

    Northrop received a low-rate initial production contract for the B-21 in December, following first flight. The company has said it will not make any money on the first five lots of the B-21, mainly because of inflation and escalated labor costs.

    Relevant articles:
    US Air Force drops brand new images of B-21 stealth bomber in flight testing, Forces Network
    New pictures of the US Air Force’s newest stealth bomber — the B-21 Raider — just dropped as flight testing continues, Business Insider
    U.S. Air Force Releases First Photo Of B-21 Raider Bomber In Flight, The Aviationist
    What the Air Force’s New B-21 Photos Show About the Raider, Air & Space Forces Magazine

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