B-21 Raider Teases Some of Its Capabilities Three Days Ahead of the Official Unveiling

The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2 7 photos
Photo: Northrop Grumman
The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2The B-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2B-25B Mitchell takes off from USS Hornet on April 18, 1942
The dominator of the skies takes off its veil Friday, December 2, in an invitation-only event held by Northrop Grumman (N.G.) in Palmdale, California. The B-21 Raider bomber is the first aircraft of the new generation (the sixth) in the U.S. Air Force and the world.
"The B-21 will join the nation's strategic triad as a visible and flexible deterrent," says the manufacturer. It immediately emphasizes the airplane's most striking feature (literally): its nuclear payload capability. We'll learn more about the absolute ruler of heaven when the curtains drop, but here are several details that Northrop Grumman has released in advance about their marvel of war.

It has an anywhere-on-Earth surprise attack ability. With aerial refueling, the state-of-the-art superweapon can reach targets on any point of both hemispheres, no matter on which side of the Equator those might be. Apart from the end-of-the-world arsenal, the B-21 can gather intel, perform recon and surveillance, and engage in electronic warfare.

Unseen, untraced, undetected, unstoppable – the strategic bomber is a flying ninja with catastrophic superpowers. Thanks to advanced technology and materials, it will be the most "invisible" airplane. We'll delve deeper into the Raider's specs and performances once the bomber is presented). Six planes are being built and are very close to test-ready ("in various stages of final assembly and test").

The F-22 and F-35 lessons have paid their dues regarding avionics development costs and feasibility (or it would appear for now). N.G. claims its aircraft to be a "digital bomber" thanks to sophisticated software assistance, high-tech manufacturing, and "digital engineering tools" that diminish production risk.

The B\-21 Raider will be officially presented on December 2
Photo: Northrop Grumman
So digital will this new wonder-bomber be that it relies on cloud technology, complete with a digital twin version for every aircraft produced. This virtual shroud aims to make the B-21 more maintainable and sustainable, reducing infrastructure costs.

The open architecture of the project could attain this last feature. The Air Force ditched the "block upgrade" system in favor of a more flexible concept. Permissive hardware and software solutions onboard the bomber will make it easier to update and upgrade when necessary. What this means, in turn, is a longer service life at a reduced expenses bill (when scaled next to already existing projects).

This real-life Avengers machine is to become the leading airstrike deliverer of the U.S. military. It combines conventional kinetic weapons systems and the atomic warheads of the strategic triad's aerial segment. (If this phrase sounds unfamiliar, think of the three means of launching nuclear weapons: submarines, ground-based ballistic silos, and long-range bombers).

Since 2015, over 8,000 people have worked on this sixth-generation airplane of the U.S. Air Force, with 400 suppliers from 40 states joining forces to build the ultimate U.S. military might enforcer. It is more than just a super-warbird; it is also a statement of resilience and determination. The B-21 Raider pays homage to the Tokyo Raid of 1942, one of the most daring military operations in warfare.

B\-25B Mitchell takes off from USS Hornet on April 18, 1942
Photo: Northrop Grumman
Although of little tactical or strategic importance, the Doolittle Raid (of the Tokyo Raid) of April 1942 had a crucial impact during the Pacific war. The 16 B-25s taking off from the USS Hornet's deck reached Japan's capital and turned the tables of conflict. Not by inflicting massive damage to the enemy but by boosting the morale of America – military and civilians alike.

It was America's comeback over Japanese ground after Pearl Harbor. It showed the world that American warplanes could reach any target, anywhere, at any time. And that statement remains true to this day – and beyond, with the B-21 Raider carrying the banner raised by that historic mission from eight decades ago.
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Editor's note: The photo gallery contains B-21 Raider rendered images released by Northrop Grumman.

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About the author: Razvan Calin
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After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
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