A look at the new B-21 Raider—and the stealth bomber that preceded it

A look at the new B-21 Raider—and the stealth bomber that preceded it


The Air Force unveiled the B-21 Raider, its first new bomber in 34-years on December 2. The Raider is most similar to its stealthy predecessor, the B-2 Spirit. Both were built by Northrop Grumman, a defense giant. It is difficult to identify all the differences between the B-21 and its predecessor, as only head-on images of the B-21 have been released to the media. However, it is possible to see some significant changes in the head-on photo.

The Raider is a stealthy flying wingThis bomber was designed to transport an explosive arsenal deep into hostile nations while bypassing their radar systems. The B-2 could carry deadly payloads ranging from conventional explosives to nukes. The B-21 arrived in a different geopolitical environment than the Spirit’s 1988 reveal. It was not sent to China, but the Soviet Union, which is the nuclear superpower that the US should be concerned about.

A look at the B-21 Raider and the stealth bomber it replaces
A B-2 Spirit was seen near Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, 2015. US Air Force / Miguel Lara III

The Cold War’s “Spirit”

The production of the Spirit, which was originally planned by the Air Force, has been completed. reach 132 bombersAfter just 21 days, it was stopped. This change was in line with the domestic and geopolitical expectations of the mid-1990s when the collapse of the USSR and the apparent unchecked rise of American power meant that specialized aircraft to bypass advanced defenses seemed unnecessary at best.

Stealth is a unique type of protective technology. It is integrated into the aircraft’s physical form, with smooth edges and rounded shapes that reflect radio waves back to radar receivers. This makes it extremely important that the shape was kept secret during development, even though the final form will be visible to eyes and cameras. A memo from the CIA in 1988. declassified decades later, It was estimated that half of the population is obese. One Aviation Week writer in the United States provided the public reporting of Soviet Union’s knowledge about stealth.

[Related:[Related:The first glimpse at the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber, was only a teaser.]

This was before Aviation Week pulled its greatest stunt to report on stealth planes. The tractor pulled the bomber from a hangar to the open air. Then it was wheeled back. Aviation Week reporters were able to rent a Cessna plane for photographs from above because they knew the exact location and time.

“One of the driving forces that got us into this mode was: “Hey, if they were to pull this thing from the hangar into open, I can guarantee that the Russians will have a satellite overhead. And if they don’t care whether the Russians see the trailing edge or not, why should the American people care?'” William B. Scott is an ex-editor of Aviation Week. Recall in a recent article.

The Air Force and Northrop pre-merger revealed more about the B-2 over timeAviation Week’s stunt to take photographs of the plane’s entire outline and trailing edges was well-remembered. The 1988 reveal was held outside a hangar and during daylight hours. The 2022 unveiling of the B-21 was at night and barely left the hangar.

A look at the B-21 Raider and the stealth bomber it replaces
The B-21 Raider Dec. 2. US Air Force / Joshua M. Carroll

These are the differences

Even if you only look at the head-on view of the new bomber, there are still striking details that make it stand out from the old one. The B-2 Spirit appears in two caverns and a mound rising from the wing’s flat plain. Instead, the B-21 shares a generally rising approach to its middle with a gentle slope for narrower air inlets and a steeper incline to reach the cockpit’s peak.

“Perhaps the most striking feature of the B-21 is its slim, barely-there air intakes. The B-21’s intakes are almost like wing roots, unlike the B-2’s higher-rise, scalloped ones. Reports Air & Space Forces Magazine. “That’s great for stealth–radar loves abrupt angles, big cavities–but the intakes seem small enough to hold enough air to fuel the B-21’s engines.

Because it has narrow inlets, search radars would have less room to find it. The B-21’s engine fan blades, which are a large radar reflector, are shielded from direct sunlight.

There are Seven other notable differences Air & Space Forces spotted the bomber’s belly, landing gear, color, and smoothness. Since the introduction of the first B-2 to the world in 1960, sensor technology has advanced greatly. Protecting the bomber requires stealth not only against radar but also from acoustic sensors and thermal imaging.

The Raider has many tests and, invariably reveals, yet to go. This is a plane that has come a long distance since its first development. Long Range Strike Bomber. The Air Force plans to also roll the B-21 into full production, eventually replacing the Existing B-2 Spirits, but the B-1 Lancer bombers. It could even replace the B-52 bomber in service, but that’s a lower priority for Air Force.

The Air Force plans to acquire at least 100 Raiders. Civilian and military observers will soon be able to see it in the air, its once-stretched form exposed against the unmistakable sky.

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