US Air Force’s Fearsome New B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber Coming in 2022

An artist's rendering depicts the B-21 at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., one of the bases expected to host the Raider once it reaches the force. Courtesy graphic/Northrop Grumman

The U.S. Air Force has already begun phasing out its venerable supersonic, but conventionally armed, B-1B bombers to make room for the super stealthy B-21 Raiders, but the first B-21 test models are still at least a year from production. Still, the first B-21 bomber is starting to take shape and more details about it are beginning to emerge.

Illustrations shared of the bat-wing aircraft show the B-21 to be superficially similar to, though smaller than, the larger and older B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Critically though, the B-21 is expected to be far stealthier, employing low-observable technology at least two generations more advanced than the B-2.

In an interview with Air Force Magazine, Randall G. Walden, director of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), which manages the highly secretive program, said the first Raider bomber schedule to come off the assembly line in mid-2022 is “really starting to look like a bomber.”

Air Force Magazine notes:

The B-21 will come out in the open for engine runs, taxi tests, and other necessary ground checks at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., plant in early 2022. The first flight should follow several months later, Walden said. That first flight will be a short, 36-mile hop from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Once there, the 420th Flight Test Squadron will put the bomber to extensive aerial tests. 

Graphics: Dash Parham/staff; Illustration: Mike Tsukamoto/staff Courtesy of Air Force Mag

After that, the bomber should transition to production at scale “very quickly,” the former Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said to Week and Space Technology last month. The first batches of planes should total 21 aircraft, but the Air Force will need many more.

As noted by Air Force Magazine, the B-21 will be able to carry both conventional and nuclear payloads. And Walden explains:

“We are building the airplane to have the access, range, and payload that is needed for the future high-end fight … as characterized by a highly contested environment,” he said. The goal is to “hold any target at risk,” no matter how well defended. The aircraft must be “effective for a very long time as the threat evolves,” he said, and its open architecture will allow frequent and seamless, “almost … plug-and-play” updates to the B-21’s capabilities. 

The Air Force says it will need at least 220 bombers to support its global conventional and nuclear strike missions. The service plans to retire the B-1B and B-2 bombers, leaving only the new B-21s and the almost 60-year-old B-52s. There are only 76 operational B-52s. That means the Air Force would need to produce nearly 150 B-21s. Walden maintains that the goal is to produce “at least 100” bombers.

However, the future 220-bomber force could also include other aircraft, not yet produced. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told Air Force Magazine last year that his command may buy some “attritable aircraft” for long-range strike. This may refer to using lower cost, and more expendable, unmanned drones such as the XQ-58A Valkerie.

This will likely impact the final number of B-21s the Air Force ultimately gets. But either way, the first Raiders will be coming in 2022.

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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MicalLogin Hooray for our Marines using smaller m

Hooray for our Marines using smaller maneuverable rubber boats to secretly slide into the marshes of the island they are taking over!Carrying heat seeking shoulfer missiles they are a good cover to approach islands! You go Marines! Deploy, destroy deadly.return fire,
U@provide Convoys all to keep Americs free and safe☆! Be safe, be careful but be the Marlines who get the job donre!. Bulyah , let’s do this!!

CaptTurbo
9 months ago

So, will we be bombing ourselves or our allies?

Herbert G. Chapman
Herbert G. Chapman
9 months ago
Reply to  CaptTurbo

Well, some one has to help China .

JOHN
JOHN
9 months ago

Every television that America buys, helps China.

Bama Bill
Bama Bill
9 months ago
Reply to  JOHN

And China “Buys” B1den! China now fires up two new 500MW “COAL FIRED” electric generating plants every week! With NO pollution controls. Read that China now produces more pollution than all the rest of the countries. Guess that’s why Obama banned coal? So we could sell it to China?

Rick
Rick
9 months ago
Reply to  CaptTurbo

AWwww hell man, WE already Bombed ourselves several Times, Albuquerque N.M. Back in the fifties, and someplace on the east coast when the bomb fell in a Swamp, Neither was Fused…. There is a book about it, “The Day we Bombed Ourselves” , The Alb,NM incident dad had Delivered the Bomb to the bird, and was filling out his paperwork for the Captain to accept the bomb, the Ordinance Crew was loading it, when the hoisting cables parted, the bomb fell out and rolled away, Breaking off its Antennae as it rolled” Clunk-clunk, clunk-clunk”, He Said it was frightening, But also Hilarious, Because you cannot out run the blast, But the Ordinance crew was sure As Hell trying.

Big_D
Big_D
9 months ago

I hope O’biden doesn’t give the technology to his beloved Chinese.

Herbert G. Chapman
Herbert G. Chapman
9 months ago
Reply to  Big_D

Well, we wouldn’t be playing on even ground if he didn’t.

bignear
bignear
9 months ago
Reply to  Big_D

you mean Joebama.

Jean
Jean
9 months ago

Buddy you can bet the CHINESE ARE WATCHING AND RECEIVING SECRETS AS I WRITE THIS….

Trish
Trish
9 months ago

Oh, isn’t she pretty. Go for it USA! Don’t let the commies or terrorists stop you, you have us behind you.

Richard
9 months ago

Sure got moneys worth from B-52’s. All of this high Tec. and it still comes down to man on ground with gun and knife.

kathy johnson
kathy johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard

my son is an EWO on the B52… still the best deterrent out there…

Bob L.
Bob L.
9 months ago

I wouldn’t be surprised if sleepy Joe Biden cancels it the way peanut brain Carter did the B-1.

jason George
jason George
9 months ago

Where is it? I can’t see it.

Robert Sohn
Robert Sohn
9 months ago

Good to see cutting edge technology in the works for the Air Force. The B-21 Stealth Bomber looks impressive. May the training provided to the pilots be equally thorough and comprehensive to handle any and all challenges that they may encounter on those stealth missions to defend the United States of America and our interests in the world. God bless.

Billy Wilson
Billy Wilson
9 months ago

I censerly hope the left does not stop this or give it our enemys


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