We get a chance to have another look at the B-21 Raider.
On Dec. 2, 2022, the B-21 Raider, U.S. Air Force’s next generation stealth bomber, was finally unveiled during a roll out ceremony at Northrop Grumman’s facility at the United States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. What we highlighted back then is that we weren’t allowed any side or planform views of the 6th generation aircraft.
Still, the front view allowed us to get some interesting details about the secretive bomber destined to replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.
As we reported, as the aircraft was being unveiled:
- The overall shape is similar to the one of the B-2 although the B-21 is probably smaller in size (not as small as we were anticipating)
- B-21 leading edge shows different design concept than the B-2
- We can’t completely assess the shape of the “hawk’s-beak” profile, although it seems similar to what shown in the latest rendering and less pronounced than the one of the Spirit.
- The B-21 features different inlets config (and blended conformal engine nacelles we can’t see from the front angle). The hd version of the front photo released by the U.S. Air Force reveal a splitter plate in the inlet.
- The B-21 has a two-wheel MLG (Main Landing Gear)
- MLG and Nose Gear doors: MLG doors are not trapezoidal but show serrated edges whereas the nose gear door is serrated and not attached to the gear leg but on the right side of the bay.
- The Raider has a new four-pieces windscreen, like the Spirit, but with a very different shape for the two lateral windows. The side windows appear to be arched and narrower than the ones in the front (about half the height).
- The color seems to be a light gray (like the RQ-180)
- There’s a small logo in front of the nose gear wheel bay that appears to be the stylized Northrop Grumman Flight test badge that also appears on the X-47B right wing.
Two new photos, taken on Nov. 28, 2022 (that is to say, a few days before the official roll-out) but released only today, provide some more details about the new aircraft. One, in particular provides a view from an elevated point of view of the aircraft, that allows us to see that the planform is probably not a cranked arrow wing similar to the one of the X-47B, as some shadows in the first official images seemed to suggest.
The stylized Northrop Grumman Flight test badge is also applied on the upper surface of the right hand side wing (close to the tip); the USAF roundel is on the left one. Some “panels” are shown in the exhaust area of the aircraft, but the blended conformal engine nacelles are still not clearly visible.
The higher angle view provides a better view of the new inlets (despite the cover), that appear to have a very small frontal section but are larger than they initially appeared (part of the inlet seems to be recessed on the upper surface of the wing, forming a sort of “L”).
The other image, is a close up photo of the B-21’s nose that shows the “hawk’s-beak” profile of the new bomber: from a 3/4 point of view, this seems to be quite similar to the one of the B-2.