Northrop Grumman Pulls the Cover Off B-21 Raider

The unveiling marked the first public reveal of the stealth bomber that will form the future backbone of U.S. airpower.

Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) rolled out Friday night what it says is the most advanced military aircraft ever built, offering a limited view of the B-21 Raider it developed for the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force’s sixth-generation, top-secret stealth bomber was unveiled December 2, marking the first new bomber for the service in more than 30 years. The event, held at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California, marked the first public reveal of the stealth bomber that will form the future backbone of U.S. airpower.

Around 8:15 p.m. EST, hangar doors slid back as the aircraft draped in fabric was slowly pulled forward, bathed in blue light. The cover was pulled off and cheers erupted from the gathered crowd.

“The next time you see this aircraft, it will be in the air,” said Kathy Warden, chair, CEO, and president of Northrop Grumman.

B-21 Raider [Credit: Northrop Grumman]

The stealth bomber—which has been in development for seven years—is digitally designed, enabled, and maintained, featuring agile software development, advanced manufacturing techniques and digital engineering tools to help mitigate production risk, according to the manufacturer.

“The Raider is designed to deliver both conventional and nuclear munitions, with formidable precision,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. “The B-21’s edge will last for decades to come.’’

“It’s the embodiment of America’s determination to defend the republic that we all love,” he added.

The Air Force has said it intends to purchase at least 100 of the aircraft that will cost about $639 million each and form the backbone of the service’s bomber force. Six B-21 bombers are currently in various stages of final assembly and testing at the facility. 

“When delivered to the Air Force, the B-21 will join the nation’s strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent; supporting national security objectives and assuring the nation’s allies and partners,” Northrop Grumman said.

“With the B-21, the U.S. Air Force will be able to deter or defeat threats anywhere in the world,” Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, said in a statement.

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 operational status in the mid-2020s.

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

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