The Air Force has released new artist-rendered images the B-21 Raider, giving the public their second ever glimpse into the stealth bomber of the future.
As we’ve discussed here on Sandboxx in the past, Northrop Grumman has been putting on a clinic in secrecy over the past five years when it comes to America’s next stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider. There are a few things we can glean, however. The new bomber leans heavily on the stealth design of its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, while leveraging new advancements in stealth technology that have been made since the B-2 first took to the skies in 1989. It will likely be a subsonic bomber with global reach, thanks to its ability to refuel in flight. It’s also expected to be able to operate autonomously, with the crew on board cut off from communications during its secretive missions.
Throughout years of speculation, the defense media sphere has used the same artist’s rendering released by Northrop Grumman. To the untrained eye, it could merely be a CGI depiction of the B-2 Spirit, but there are subtle differences–most notably, the single-point tail.
Aviation nerds and journalists alike have long been asking for another image to give us a better appreciation of what this new platform will really look like, and finally, the Air Force has offered up a new rendering that make the bomber feel a bit more… real (despite a serious lack of detail).
Of course, this new image doesn’t really give us much in the way of new information. There are a few iterations of the image that show the same aircraft in different real hangars, but the image of the aircraft itself is the same in each. One of the few details this new image does seem to confirm, however, is the use of engine inlets that are almost entirely flush with the body of the aircraft, as opposed to the visible humps on either side of the B-2’s cockpit. As Tyler Rogoway at The Warzone points out, these flush inlets are a considerable design challenge, but also offer a number of benefits in terms of reducing the aircraft’s radar signature.
The B-21 Raider is expected to enter into military service sometime in the latter half of this decade, with both the B-2 Spirit and the B-1B Lancer retiring out of service as B-21s are produced to replace them.