Let’s Have A Look At The New B-21 “Raider” Stealth Bomber Renderings The Air Force Has Just Released

Some of the main differences between the B-21 and the B-2. (Image credit: The Aviationist based on USAF rendering).

There are lots of interesting new details in the new renderings of the B-21 stealth bomber.

The U.S. Air Force has just published three new renderings of the B-21 “Raider”, the U.S. Air Force’s next stealth bomber built by Northrop Grumman and destined to  replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.

In 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that showed a concept designed around a standard flying wing quite similar to the B-2’s rather than a “cranked kite” or a kite (like those seemingly spotted over the Wichita and Amarillo back in 2014).

While on Mar. 3, 2018, Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, publicly announced that the aircraft would be tested at Edwards. The new bomber, that the U.S. Air Force plans to procure in 100 examples has a lot of things in common with the B-2; the main differences are the “W” shaped trailing edge of the Raider that is an evolution from the Spirit’s sawtooth trailing edge and the overall size and weight: the B-2’s wingspan is 172 feet while the B-21 has a payload requirement said to be between two thirds and half that of the B-2. That’s why the Raider will probably be lighter featuring a wing span smaller than that of the Spirit.

No other official renderings of the new aircraft were released since the first ones made public four years ago. Late last year, a computer-generated image created by artist Mike Tsukamoto for journalist John A. Tirpak’s December 1, 2019 article on the B-21 Raider in AirForceMag.com, titled, “The Raider Takes Shape” showed a plan-view comparison of the existing B-2 Spirit “parked” next to Tsukamoto’s digital rendering of the B-21.

Then today, the Air Force Global Strike Command shared on their Facebook page the new artist renderings of the B-21 Raider concept shown in hangars at the three locations where the nation’s newest stealth bomber will be housed: Dyess Air Force Base, Ellsworth Air Force Base and Whiteman Air Force Base.

B-21 at Dyess AFB (Image credit: USAF)
B-21 at Whiteman AFB (Image credit: USAF)
B-21 at Ellsworth AFB (Image credit: USAF)

Although intentionally lacking many features, the new artworks are extremely interesting, as they enable the gathering of additional details. Here are those that seem to be more evident to me (I’d suggest you to read also the analysis Tyler Rogoway and Joseph Trevithick published at The War Zone here).

  • Overall shape is similar to the one of the B-2 but the B-21 is smaller in size
  • B-21 leading edge shows different design concept: in particular, the new aircraft does not appear to have the toothpick edge shape of its predecessor’s hence lacking also the peculiar B-2’s “hawk’s-beak” profile
  • The B-21 features different inlets config and blended conformal engine nacelles
  • The B-21 has a two-wheel MLG (Main Landing Gear)
  • The MLG and Nose Gear doors are different: in particular, the MLG doors are not trapezoidal but show serrated edges whereas the nosegear door is serrated and not attached to the gear leg but on the right side of the bay.
The B-2’s “hawk’s-beak” profile and nose gear door are quite evident in this shot (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Barley)

We’ve tried to summarize most of the details in the following image (that we’ve also edited to increase lighting). If you note something else, please let us know.

Some of the main differences between the B-21 and the B-2. (Image credit: The Aviationist based on USAF rendering).

The new bomber is expected to perform its first flight in 2021. The USAF has only 19 operational B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. The aircraft are based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri and are sometimes forward-deployed as a strategic deterrent or for global precision strike missions that are not flown directly from Whiteman AFB.

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.
About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.