The U.S. Air Force has revealed the first image of its future Long Range Strike bomber: the B-21

Here is the Northrop Grumman B-21, quite similar to the Northrop Grumman B-2.

On Feb. 26, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber, an aircraft built by Northrop Grumman and designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

The aircraft, that was not given a name yet, is going to be the first stealth bomber of the 21st century: it will supplement the B-52, B-1 and B-2, with the latter (another Northrop Grumman design) sharing much resemblance with the future LRS-B.

In particular, the aircraft seems to be designed around a standard flying wing: neither a “cranked kite” nor a kite like those seemingly spotted over the Wichita and Amarillo back in 2014.

As you probably remember, on Mar. 10, 2014 Steve Douglass and Dean Muskett took the photographs of three mysterious planes flying at very high altitude over Amarillo, Texas.

The three unknown planes looked like boomerang-shaped plane.

About one month later (on Apr. 15), Jeff Templin shot a triangular plane over Wichita Kansas.

Among the theories around both episodes there was the one that the aircraft were LRS-B prototypes. But according to what was unveiled earlier today there no prototypes of the next generation stealth bomber and its shape is going to be much different from that of the aircraft flying at high altitude over the U.S. in 2014.

Hence, the mystery around those sightings remains.


Image credit: Sammamishman based on Muskett and Templin shots

“The platforms and systems that made us great over the last 50 years will not make us great over the next 50,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said during his testimony on Capitol Hill Feb. 10. “There are many other systems we need to either upgrade or recapitalize to ensure viability against current and emerging threats… the only way to do that is to divest old capability to build the new.”

There are no existing prototypes of the B-21, most of its capabilities are still unknown even though the aircraft is (obviously) believed to embed cutting edge technologies and sensors and to be cyber-resilient against the threats of the future interconnected world.

The artist rendering released on Feb. 26 is based on the initial design concept: this means the actual plane may be considerably different.

The Air Force plans to field the initial capability of the aircraft around 2025.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. “B-21”? Who lets this stuff happen? If the program is delayed 8 decades, will it become the B-22? If the Air Force wants something twice as good as that, will some power-tie civilian assistant program manager designate it the “B-42”? Seems like tanker guys are the only ones who still understand the designation system. Does Deborah Lee James understand it?

    • Who let’s it happen? Same people who didn’t have the spine to tell Mr. “Uhhhhh the F-35?” he was wrong. No, the X-35 doesn’t become the F-35 just because it’s the design that got selected. Should have been the F-24. (Well, in all honesty the Super Hornet should have been called the F-24 but that’s another rant.)

      • Well said.

        The “F/A-18E/F” designation was merely USN subterfuge to get a brand new design past the Pentagon without having to do an open competition.

    • No exhaust slats = no infrared signature. The Air Force is ahead of the game, my friend.

    • See the first released image of the B-2. Same thing. See the first public showing of the F-104. Same thing.

  2. I was personally expecting a larger number that 21. But I’m an Aviation Enthusiast who will happily follow the matter in the future, I’ll leave the naming job to the professionals.

  3. Never mind the weird designation, I like its connection with history and Hollywood.
    Since the press inevitably refers to stealth bombers as “bat-shaped” and it’s the B-21, we’re now have Bat-21… ;)

  4. The naming is odd. B-21 strikes me as coming in line just after the B-17 but before the B-24. It’d have made more sense to continue the current B-1 and B-2 tradition and called this one the B-3. Then again, this is the Pentagon. The name-approvers are perhaps the same generals who wanted to drop the most useful aircraft the USAF has, the A-10.

    • Respectfully disagree regarding the A-
      10, but I’m not going to hijack the thread with an off-topic rabbit hole discussion.

    • It’s not “tradition” it’s the official numbering convention for nearly a century. After the fubar with the X-35/F-35 nonsense they apparently threw it out. As for the A-10. . .bah, hah, hah, hah. Let’s see it intercept a Bear bomber. Let’s see it attack anything in contested airspace. Let’s see it fly CAP. Yeah. It’s a one-trick pony that can only perform when nobody real is shooting at it.

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