B-21 Rolled Out


The world’s first “sixth generation” military aircraft was unveiled to friend and foe when Northrop Grumman and the Air Force rolled out the first B-21 Raider on Friday. The flying wing was also vaulted to the pointiest end of the stick at the ceremony, which took place at the company’s Palmdale, California, facility. “The B-21 Raider forms the backbone of the future for U.S. air power, leading a powerful family of systems that deliver a new era of capability and flexibility through advanced integration of data, sensors and weapons,” Northrop Grumman said in a news release. “Its sixth-generation capabilities include stealth, information advantage and open architecture.”

That open architecture means the airframe can evolve with new technology and weaponry as they become available and stay in touch with other assets in the process. “The B-21 is capable of networking across the battlespace to multiple systems, and into all domains,” the company said. “Supported by a digital ecosystem throughout its lifecycle, the B-21 can quickly evolve through rapid technology upgrades that provide new capabilities to outpace future threats.” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was there and he emphasized its importance. “Now, strengthening and sustaining U.S. deterrence is at the heart of our National Defense Strategy,” he said.

The airplane unveiled Friday will begin flight testing next year at Edwards Air Force Base. There are six more in production and the Pentagon has promised to buy at least 100 of them. The plane is expected to enter service in two to three years. It looks a lot like a B-2 but there’s a lot more under the hood. “The real differences are inside of the platform, because you can think about how much digital technology has progressed since the time we built the B-2 and the time we built the B-21,” Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden told Breaking Defense.

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  1. I wonder how long it will be before they announce that it will be either flown remotely or, using AI, will be completely autonomous. I also question whether the Air Force will actually purchase all 100 planes. Since there was no mention of a price, I suspect budget constraints will cut that number way down.

  2. I heard a report yesterday that quoted a price of $700 million each, but that may be an early project estimate, subject to frequent revision. As for the Chinese version, I suspect that this public unveiling is aimed at both the Russians and Chinese, saying “look what we got, don’t mess with us”.

  3. Once again it appears we are planning to fight the last war, not the next one. One can only hope all this new technology fairs better than the F-22 which is now being retired because they cannot replace or repair the old now obsolete technology. We should be paying close attention to what is happening in Ukraine for clues of future battles. If it is necessary for our air force to fly deep into China or Russia, were are probably in a no holds barred war where nucs will be used and all the new aircraft that might survive will have no where to return to.
    Who is the enemy we are aiming these at? Probably the helpless American tax payer who is still the ultimate hostage of the military-industrial complex.

    • If you don’t want a nuclear war, then keep prepared for a conventional war.

      The US is planning to avoid a Ukraine situation by maintaining air superiority. The best way to do that is for your enemy to lose his air forces before the morning of the second day. This plane is part of that solution. It’s not a last war strategy.

      I know asymmetric warfare has seemed to suck, but it’s still better than being in a grinder with a near peer.

  4. What happened to military secrets? Now there’s a photo including some specifications.
    Speaking of which, my RV-9A goes a 1000 miles with one fill up too.
    Maybe it’s just a balsa mock-up to trick the “bad guys” into spending billions to try and match it.