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Air Force unveils photos of B-21 Raider in flight as nuclear stealth bomber moves closer to deployment

Air Force unveils B-21 Raider, new stealth bomber
Air Force unveils B-21 Raider, new nuclear stealth bomber 00:32

The U.S. military has released photos of the B-21 Raider in flight as the futuristic warplane moves closer to becoming the nation's next nuclear stealth bomber.

The B-21 Raider began flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the Air Force said in a statement, as the plane "continues to make progress toward becoming the backbone of the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet."

One photograph shows the bomber soaring above the clouds while another image shows the aircraft just above the runway.

A B-21 Raider conducts ground testing, taxiing and flying operations at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.  United States Air Force

The Air Force is planning to build 100 of the warplanes, which have a flying wing shape much like their predecessor the B-2 Spirit but will incorporate advanced materials, propulsion and stealth technology to make them more survivable in a future conflict. The plane is planned to be produced in variants with and without pilots.

"We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well," Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said during testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee this month. "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." 

The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years, and almost every aspect of the program is classified. Both Northrop Grumman and the Air Force have tried to protect the program's details to prevent China from gaining access to the weapon's technology and building a similar version, as it has with other U.S. advanced weapons systems like the F-35 joint strike fighter.

The Air Force said the B-21 is "the first aircraft that is more digital than not."

A B-21 Raider conducts ground testing, taxiing and flying operations at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.  United States Air Force

At the bomber's unveiling in December 2022, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the range of the B-21 is unmatched by any other bomber. 

"It won't need to be based in-theater, it won't need logistical support to hold any target at risk," the secretary said. 

Austin said it will be difficult for adversaries to detect the stealth aircraft. 

"Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft," he said. "Even the most sophisticated air-defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky."

United States Bomber First Flight
The B-21 Raider stealth bomber is unveiled at Northrop Grumman, Dec. 2, 2022, in Palmdale, Calif.  Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
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