America’s secretive $745M nuclear bomber takes flight in first aerial test


New images show America’s highly secret, $745-million stealth nuclear bomber taking to the air for what is apparently its first, publicly acknowledged, flight test.

The B-21 Raider was unveiled in December 2022, but the US government has so far been discreet about showing off this cutting-edge, radar-evading aircraft.

The sleek bomber was shown flying for the first time as it undergoes flight testing, in pictures released Wednesday, one crucial step before a minimum first order of 100 of these stealth craft can be approved for manufacture.

The B-21 has been described as a ‘dual-capable bomber’ — able to launch both conventional and nuclear ordinance.

This photo, released by the US Air Force on 22 May 2024, shows a B-21 Raider conducting ground testing, taxiing and flying operations at Edwards Air Force Base in California

This photo, released by the US Air Force on 22 May 2024, shows a B-21 Raider conducting ground testing, taxiing and flying operations at Edwards Air Force Base in California

The US Air Force's B-21 stealth bomber aircraft is touted to be virtually 'invisible' to all enemy stealth radars and will included the latest features in military tech

The US Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber aircraft is touted to be virtually ‘invisible’ to all enemy stealth radars and will included the latest features in military tech

This month, during testimony at the Senate Armed Services committee, Andrew Hunter, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, asserted that the B-21’s flight testing is currently on schedule.

‘We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well,’ he said.

‘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.’

Assistant Secretary Hunter later explained that this is the first aircraft that is more digital than not, which contributes to the program meeting requirements.

The United States Air Force's new stealth bomber was caught in action for the first time by eagle-eyed plane spotters last November, but made a more official test flight this May

The United States Air Force’s new stealth bomber was caught in action for the first time by eagle-eyed plane spotters last November, but made a more official test flight this May 

The B-21 is a long-range, highly survivable, penetrating strike stealth bomber that will incrementally replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers and will play a major role supporting national security objectives and assisting US allies and partners across the globe.

The B-21 weapon system is manufactured under the Air Force’s contract with Northrop Grumman.

‘It is designed with an open systems architecture, enabling rapid insertion of mature technologies, and allowing the aircraft to remain effective as threats evolve over time,’ according to the US Air Force.

‘The aircraft is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s with a production goal of a minimum of 100 aircraft,’ the military branch continued in their statement.

The B-21 taxiing at Edwards Air Force Base, California

The B-21 taxiing at Edwards Air Force Base, California

The B-21 Raider is a nuclear-capable craft and the first of its kind to be introduced since the end of the Cold War. 

While press releases described the recent test flights as the B-21’s first, it was previously spotted conducting a test flight in California late last year, as confirmed by Air Force officials.

Aviation photographer Matt Hartman caught the new warplane in action at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility in November 2023, recording video of this less public test flight from a road near Air Force Plant 42 Palmdale, California.

Aviation photographer Matt Hartman caught the new warplane in action at Northrop Grumman¿s Palmdale facility last November, recording video of a less official test flight

Aviation photographer Matt Hartman caught the new warplane in action at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility last November, recording video of a less official test flight

His footage shows the uniquely shaped B-21 Raider roaring through the sky, flanked by another plane, before it takes a sharp turn.

There are six test aircrafts being produced by aerospace company Northrop Grumman and each one is projected to cost $750 million.

It is touted to be virtually ‘invisible’ to all enemy stealth radars and will equipped with the latest features in military tech.

The B-21 Raider weighs around 30,000 pounds, has a wing span of 172 feet and can reach maximum speeds of 621 miles per hour.

Air Force Global Strike Commander Thomas A. Bussier called the craft the ‘future backbone of the bomber fleet,’ at a November unveiling event.

Long term, the US Air Force hopes to have at least 220 of them to replace old B-1 and B-2 bombers.

The service has estimated that the program will likely cost at least $203billion over 30 years to develop, purchase and maintain the B-21 fleet.

The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which also includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernization. 





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