The United States Air Force's B-21 Raider bomber took off for the first time this Friday in Palmdale, California. Images released by photojournalist Matt Hartman show the historic test flight of - in the words of the Air Force - the airplane "designed to operate in tomorrow’s high-end threat environment."
— Matt Hartman (@ShorealoneFilms) November 10, 2023
— Matt Hartman (@ShorealoneFilms) November 11, 2023
"The B-21 will provide the flexibility and deterrence critical to the security of the U.S. and our allies," says manufacturer Northrop Grumman, which in 2015 was put in charge of building "the world’s most advanced strike aircraft."
Although the program is classified, so most of the technical details of the B-21 Raider are unknown, it has been announced that the manufacturer will improve some of the key features of its successor, the Spirit B-2, which was designed during the Cold War to go unnoticed by Soviet radars and bomb the enemy by surprise.
The B-21 Raider was named in honor of the Doolittle Raiders, 80 volunteer pilots led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle who launched the first bombers from an aircraft carrier to attack Japan by surprise (and successfully). It will be able to transport both conventional and nuclear material and undertake long duration flights with little refueling. Its predecessor was used in the longest combat mission in aviation history. It is famous being invisible or undetectable to radars.
According to its website, the Air Force initially plans to build 100 of these bombers (with a cost of $700 million per unit). As announced during its presentation late last year, it is expected to enter service in 2027.