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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. Few details have been revealed about the two-engine bomber. (Northrop Grumman)

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.

“If 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. “The 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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