The highly classified B-21 Raider took its first flight on Friday and there was nothing secretive about it. The aircraft took off from Palmdale Airport in California on a bluebird day with hundreds of people watching from the roads ringing the airport. The stealth bomber that will eventually replace the B-2 Spirit is optionally piloted and employs numerous system and cloaking technologies designed to overcome the advances in detection technology that have eroded the B-2’s strategic advantage over its 20 years of service. The Air Force is planning to buy 100 B-21s, which are estimated to cost $700 million each. The overall program cost will be about $200 billion.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. ‘The Air Force is planning to buy 100 B-21s…’
    So, between 10 and 50 will actuality be delivered? Seems rare to get anywhere near planned acquisition numbers in recent decades, especially of the pricey high-end stuff like B-2s and F-22s.

  2. @bobscrew – It could also be test instrumentation for measuring static source, ambient air pressure for altitude. You can also see a red boom on the front, for measuring pitot pressure, to calculate airspeed. At Gulfstream we use those on test planes for that purpose, to calculate static source error corrections charts.

    • It looks just like a B-2 from the outside…big deal. If you want to know what “highly classified” means, try to take a peek on the inside.

    • It’s plausible that the B-21 is cover for a more-highly classified “dark” program, maybe even a variant of the B-21 itself. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that was done (like how some people are still conviced that the F-117 was capable of dogfighting because it had an F- prefix).

    • Because deterrence requires advertising your capabilities (and leaving for the imagination that they’re much greater than you said). “I have a big plane that I can’t tell you about” is much less effective than, “This amazing plane you can see with your own eyes can do at least 100 knots and drop a bomb or two”.