New images have been released of the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force’s upcoming stealth nuclear bomber that is expected to be deployed into action in 2027.
Northrop Grumman, the company producing the aircraft, posted two pictures of the aircraft on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service website.
The contract to develop the new bomber was awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2015, and since then, a team of more than 8,000 individuals has been working on the project.
The team includes Northrop Grumman employees, members of the Air Force, more than 400 suppliers representing 40 U.S. states, and other partners, according to a facts section from Northrop Grumman.
The company describes the B-21 Raider as an “advanced aircraft offering a combination of range, payload, and survivability.”
Current expectations are that the bomber will be ready for use in 2027 and will fully replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit by 2040, according to Fox News.
A description of the aircraft on the Air Force website says it will become the “backbone of the future Air Force bomber force.”
“Designed to operate in tomorrow’s high-end threat environment, the B-21 will play a critical role in ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability,” stated the Air Force.
The B-21 was first unveiled in December 2022 at a ceremony in Palmdale, California, where Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said it was a “testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation.”
“Now, strengthening and sustaining U.S. deterrence is at the heart of our National Defense Strategy. And so is our uniquely American spirit of innovation and invention,” he said during the ceremony.
“And if you want to see that strategy in action, if you want to see America’s enduring advantages in action, if you want to see integrated deterrence in action — well, just look at this aircraft.”
The Air Force estimates that each bomber will cost roughly $692 million, but this figure has not been officially confirmed.
Despite the high expected cost, Northrop Grumman claims maintainability “has been a B-21 program priority from the start.”
Indeed, the company notes, “In partnership with the Air Force, our team has made maintainability an equally important requirement to stealth performance to ensure we’re driving more affordable, predictable operations and sustainment outcomes.”
Austin confirmed this statement during the unveiling ceremony, emphasizing that the aircraft will be the “most maintainable bomber ever built.”
Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, has expressed concerns about the unconfirmed price, stating, “It might be a big challenge for us to do our normal analysis of a major program like this.”
“It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still on schedule before it actually flies. Because it’s only when one of these programs goes into the actual testing phase when real problems are discovered,” he added, according to the New York Post.
While the B-21 Raider has not yet been tested, Austin said at the unveiling ceremony that “we will soon fly this aircraft, test it, and then move it into production.