Northrop Grumman Announces B-21 Raider Unveiling Date

Here’s when you can get a first peek at the U.S. Air Force’s sixth-generation stealth bomber.

A B-21 Raider artist rendering graphic. Designed to perform long range conventional and nuclear missions and to operate in tomorrow’s high end threat environment, the B-21 will be a visible and flexible component of the nuclear triad. [Courtesy: Northrop Grumman]

The B-21 Raider—the U.S. Air Force’s sixth-generation, top-secret stealth bomber—will officially be unveiled for the first time in public on Friday, December 2, according to Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC).

Northrop Grumman released the save-the-date announcement on social media Thursday with an image of the aircraft under a sheet.

Six B-21 bombers are currently in final assembly at the manufacturer’s facility in Palmdale, California. The B-21 is the first new bomber for the Air Force in more than 30 years, according to reports.

While the rollout date for the aircraft developed in secret has been revealed, questions remain about specifically how much of the bomber will be revealed to the public during the event. “You probably won’t see it from all aspects,” Maj. Gen. Jason R. Armagost, Global Strike Command’s director of strategic plans, programs, and requirements said last month, according to Air & Space Forces Magazine.

The first B-21 flight is projected for 2023 and will be scheduled based upon the outcomes of ground tests, Northrop Grumman said. The stealth bomber is designed to carry out long-range conventional and nuclear missions and is slated to hit full operations in the mid-2020s.

Earlier this year, the manufacturer announced the aircraft had successfully completed loads calibration testing. The ground testing milestone in early May focused on instrument calibration and verifying structural integrity of the bomber. Following the testing, the aircraft was then expected to proceed into additional ground testing phases, which include powering up the aircraft, subsystem testing, engine runs, and low-speed and high-speed taxi tests. 

The Air Force has said it intends to purchase at least 100 aircraft that will form the backbone of the service’s bomber force.

The B-21 Raider, along with modified B-52s, will form a two-bomber fleet that will incrementally replace the aging fleet of B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit bombers.

Last year, the Air Force announced the B-21 Raider is headed to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where the 420th Flight Test Squadron will plan, test, analyze, and report all ground and flight testing.

The first operational B-21 Raider unit will be located at Ellsworth Air Force Base (KRCA), South Dakota—the training grounds of the B-17 Flying Fortresses in 1942. B-21s are also heading to Whiteman Air Force Base (KSZL) in Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base (KDYS) in Texas.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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