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Update: USAF reveals B-21 Raider stealth bomber following years of secret development

The B-21 Raider was unveiled to the public during a 2 December 2022 ceremony in Palmdale, California. (US Space Force Public Affairs)

The US Air Force (USAF) unveiled the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber on 2 December at the company's factory at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where the aircraft was built. At least five B-21s (not including the completed example unveiled) are in various stages of production.

β€œIf you want to talk about integrated deterrence in action, well, just look at this aircraft,” said Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin II, introducing the aircraft. β€œThe B-21 looks imposing, but what's under the frame and space-age coatings is even more impressive.” Austin went on to praise the B-21's range, stealth, maintainability, and adaptability – but nearly all specifications were withheld and only the aircraft's front was displayed, presumably to hide the engine outlets from public view.

The B-21 is scheduled to enter operational service in the mid-2020s, with the exact schedule dependent on how the aircraft progresses through its test programme; the first flight is tentatively scheduled in mid-2023 and will likely see the aircraft fly from Plant 42 to the USAF's primary flight test centre at nearby Edwards Air Force Base (AFB). The Raider will enter low-rate initial production (LRIP) concurrent with flight testing.

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