A new graphic showing an artist’s concept of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider was released by the US Air Force (USAF) on July 6.
The new rendering, featuring the future long-range stealth bomber flying over Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, was released to coincide with a new B-21 fact sheet, which was also published on the same day. The 420th Flight Test Squadron – a resident of Edwards AFB – will plan, test, analyse and report on all flight and ground testing of the B-21 Raider.
The new fact sheet is predictably vague on detail, revealing little new information. However, one noteworthy element of the artist’s interpretation of the B-21 design is that it differs from the only two previous renderings released by showing a somewhat unusual cockpit windscreen layout. Apart from a fairly normal front windscreen, it also reveals an upward curved, narrow, elongated side glazed panel.
The B-21 programme continues to execute the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase and is focused on scaling the manufacturing infrastructure and capacity across the industrial supply base to prepare for low-rate initial production (LRIP). A critical design review conducted in 2018 concluded the aircraft has a mature and stable design.
First flight of the Raider prototype is currently anticipated to take place in May 2022. The USAF states that the programme is on track to deliver B-21s to the first operational base – Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota – in the mid-2020s. The base will also house the B-21 Formal Training Unit (FTU).
In a statement accompanying the new fact sheet and image releases, Randall Walden – the director of the US Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office – said: “Nuclear modernisation is a top priority for the Department of Defense and the air force, and [the] B-21 is key to that plan. The built-in feature of open systems architecture on the B-21 makes the bomber effective as the threat environment evolves. This aircraft design approach sets the nation on the right path to ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability.”