I just got a friendly comment on my post about the new B-21 “Raider” stealth bomber. That post is a few years old and the person was asking for an update. Actually, I need to be doing more writing on this site – I’ve been slacking!

Here is an update on the B-21!

To review, the B-21 is the replacement for both the B1 and B2 bombers currently in operation. It is a stealth bomber design that looks very much like the B2, but has some differences as I pointed out in my post on it.

Summarizing them:

  1. The engines are missing! Well, not really. They just don’t appear to be nearly as big a footprint, seemingly integrated into the fuselage and wing.
  2. The trailing edge has less points. As I wrote, I’m not sure what that does, but likely is a stealth component.
  3. It’s a lot less porky. Okay, I’m not saying the B2 is porky by any stretch, and if you’ve seen one flying edge-on, they’re downright skinny. The B21, is even sleeker.
  4. On the renderings, there are no control surfaces shown on the B21 (like flaps, ailerons, etc.). What does that mean? Could just be a lazy artist. Could be that they are classified and were purposely left out. Could be that there is something altogether new at play.

So, what have we learned in the three years since I wrote the post? The short answer is: very little. The Air Force has been extremely tight lipped about the whole program. When commenting about the B-2 program, Lt. General Arnold Bunch said, “one of the things we did find out on the B-2 was we weren’t open enough.”

Great! Give us some scoop on the B-21!

“I don’t see releasing anymore details for a period of time. We’ve been very open so far.”

Well… crap.

Here’s what we do know:

  1. They nicknamed it the “Raider” after Jimmy Doolittle’s Raiders. Doolittle led the first raid against mainland Japan in 1942 when he took 16 land-based B-25 Mitchell bombers off of carriers roughly 650 miles from Japan and bombed Tokyo and several other cities. It was a largely symbolic raid meant to send a message and raise morale at home. Fifteen of the bombers crashed or ditched after running out of fuel, and the last one made it to the USSR where it was interned.
  2. It passed its Critical Design Review in December, prompting the statement, “The next major milestone is first flight. “
  3. An estimated 100 aircraft will be built at a 2010 price tag of $550M each.
  4. The first base for the bombers will be Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Whiteman Air Force Base and Dyess Air Force Base are also listed.
  5. The aircraft will be tested at Edward Air Force Base and Tinker Air Force Base.
  6. First flight will potentially be as early as mid-2020.

Posted by Darren Beyer

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