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After years of secrecy, the Air Force launches the B 21 Raider bomber

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BREAKING: After years of secrecy, the Air Force launches the B-21 Raider bomber

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Air Force

PALMDALE, Calif. — The Air Force first unveiled its new long-range strategic bomber, the B-21 Raider, at a ceremony December 2 at prime contractor Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California.

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Northrop Grumman

In front of hundreds of onlookers, mostly Northrop Grumman employees who had been secretly working on the project for seven years, the company towed the wing-shaped plane outside Air Force Hangar 42, some 30 years to the day to the day the last bomber flew. developing. the B-2 Spirit, made its debut at the same facility.

Department of Defense

Invited guests including lawmakers, Department of Defense and service officials, executives from the aircraft’s many subcontractors, and members of the media. The event was broadcast live for the public.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

“The B-21 advantage will last for decades to come,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III said during the opening ceremony.

The aircraft was envisioned in the mid-2000s as a long-range stealth bomber that could deliver conventional or nuclear weapons deep into enemy territories and evade modern air defenses. Original plans called for a minimum of 100 bombers and would cost $500 million each in 2010 dollars.

“The B-21 looks imposing, but what’s below the frame and its space-age cladding is even more impressive,” Austin said.

“Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have a hard time spotting the B-21 in the sky,” he said. The plane was also designed with open architectures so that as enemy threats evolve, its defense and electronic systems can be easily upgraded to keep pace, he added.

Kathy Warden

It is touted as the first digitally designed aircraft from its inception. New digital engineering techniques, which allow engineers to test components and aspects of a platform with computer simulations, have greatly sped up the development process, said Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman president and CEO.

Austin said the Raider will be ineffective if it needs to be serviced frequently. “The B-21 was carefully designed to be the most maintainable aircraft ever built,” he said.

Air Force

The Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman the contract to build what was then called the long-range attack bomber in October 2015. For the past seven years and two months, the program has been shrouded in secrecy, save for a few artist renderings. released to the public showing the silhouette of the aircraft.

Air Force

The Air Force later designated the aircraft the B-21, the number representing the 21st century, and named it the “Raider,” after Lt. Col. James Doolittle and his Doolittle Raiders, who led a one-way mission during World War II. World to bomb Tokyo after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Members of the Doolittle Raider families were present at the ceremony.

Northrop Grumman

Key among the aircraft’s new features is what Northrop Grumman calls next-generation stealth technology, “employing new manufacturing techniques and materials to ensure the B-21 defeats the anti-access and area denial systems it will face.” a company statement. he said.

The B-21’s stealth technology is based on 50 years of developing low-visibility aircraft, Warden told reporters before the ceremony.

United States

“The world has never seen technology like the B-21,” he said. It is a sixth-generation aircraft designed to fly anywhere in the world, evade enemy defense, deliver munitions without the need for support aircraft, and return to base in the United States. The program is “bringing future technology into the here and now,” he added.

Air Force

In addition to keeping the aircraft’s technology secret, the Air Force also stated that the program’s budget was classified. Although he is yet to disclose costs, Warden said the program remains on budget and on schedule.

Air Force

The Raider launched on December 2 was one of six bombers that are in various stages of production, Northrop said. Some 400 subcontractors are supplying parts or services spread across 40 states. The program involves some 8,000 people at the industrial base and the Air Force.

“Soon we will fly this aircraft, test it, and then put it into production,” Austin said. Test flights are expected to start in 2023.

Air Force

As for the delivery to the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said it would be in the “mid-2020s” but declined to be more specific. The first B-21s will deploy to Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

B-21 Raider

To learn more about the B-21 Raider, read the January 2023 issue of National Defense.

Topics: Air Force News

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