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US Air Force releases first official images of B-21 Raider during test flights 

The United States Air Force (USAF) has released its first official images of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider while undertaking secretive test flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, the US’s next-generation stealth bomber, was officially unveiled on December 2, 2022, but photos of the aircraft in flying during testing have not been made public before by the USAF.  

The B-21 Raider is expected to gradually replace the aging B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer strategic bombers, which have been crucial assets in the USAF’s long-range strike capabilities for decades.   

During testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 8, 2024, Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, confirmed that flight testing is currently on track. 

“We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well,” Hunter said. “It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way.”   

US Air Force

The B-21 Raider has been conducting ground testing, taxiing and flight operations and is expected to enter active service by 2026.   

The B-21 weapon system is manufactured under the Air Force’s contract with Northrop Grumman and is designed to be updated with mature technologies as threats evolve over time.   

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office manages the acquisition program, focusing on making test aircraft as production representative as possible.  

Test aircraft are built on the same manufacturing line and use the same manning and tooling that will be used in the eventual production.   

Rather than a traditional flight prototype approach, B-21 test aircraft are built including mission systems using the same manufacturing processes and tooling for production aircraft. 

US Air Force

It is understood that the newly released photos were taken in January and April this year. 

When the B-21 enters the service, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will be the first main operating base and location of the formal training unit.  

Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, are the preferred locations for the remaining bases and will receive aircraft as they become available. 

The post US Air Force releases first official images of B-21 Raider during test flights  appeared first on AeroTime.

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