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Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

Sixth Generation Long Range Strategic Stealth Bomber [ 2028 ]

Born from the USAF LRS-B strike platform initiative, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider was unveiled in a December 2022 rollout ceremony.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/12/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Northrop Grumman B-21 "Raider" is the latest addition to the United States Air Force's attack arsenal and a successor to the B-2A "Spirit" stealth bomber of the 1990s. It represents the company's most important project since the Spirit was first launched and is the world's first - and only - Sixth Generation bomber aircraft offering. The designation of "B-21" was applied on officially announced February 26th, 2016 after which artist renderings appeared to show a bomber form not unlike the previous entry.

The 6th Gen bomber's "Raider" moniker is derived from the daring World War II "Doolittle" raid against the heart of the Empire of Japan involving the North American B-25 "Mitchell" medium bomber and eighty airmen.

Expensive, though potent, bomber fleets in the modern age are few and far between with fewer than a handful of global services supporting the type: United States, Russia, China, and North Korea.

The aircraft is designed as a deterrence-minded stealth penetrator, capable of entering enemy airspaces and attacking through a potent conventional or nuclear war load with minimal detection. It joins other advanced aircraft types in the USAF inventory that includes the Lockheed F-22 "Raptor" air dominace fighter and F-35 "Lightning II" strike fighter entries - a triad unmatched anywhere in the world.

The design was born from the USAF's "Long Range Strike - Bomber" (LRS-B) program (succeeding the earlier, eventually-cancelled "Next-Generation Bomber" program) that involved proposals from defense powerhouses Boeing / Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The development contract was awarded on October 27th, 2015 with Northrop coming out on top.

As of this writing (2022), the B-21 is expected to enter service in the latter half of the 2020s with an initial target fleet of 100 airframes. These will be used, at least initially, alongside aging platforms such as the Boeing B-52 "Stratofortress", the Rockwell B-1 "Lancer", and Northrop's own B-2A before directly succeeding all three in service in the strategic bomber role.

The USAF's Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) is heading the initiative and the partners list includes Pratt & Whitney (engines), BAe Systems (electronics), GKN Aerospace (metals and composites), Janicki Industries (composites and tooling), Orbital ATK (wing skins and nacelles), Spirit Aerosystems (metals and composites), and Rockwell Collins (communications). Northrop Grumman will provide the onboard radar fit.

Base on the rollout ceremony's reveal, the B-21 has an "all-wing" planform not unlike the B-2A though incorporating all proven, and some new, stealth technologies into its design. The flight crew numbers two and the team is seated at the apex of the "arrow" shape along the arrowhead-like planform. All major compartments are situated at the center mass of the aircraft whose fuselage is blended into the wings to promote a very-low-profile when viewed in profile. As with the B-2A, the engines will be housed in the rear in a side-by-side, embedded arrangement with its exhaust protected as much as possible from IR locators. A conventional, multi-wheeled retractable tricycle undercarriage will be used for ground-running.

While an unmanned option has been mentioned in regards to the new bomber, this initiative appears to no longer be in play. However, the concept of having the bomber network with allied drones may remain a real possibility. At the very least, modularity is at the heart of the new bomber design, allowing for rapid upgrading of software and systems while streamlining the (eventual) modernization process. A digital infrastructure forms the framework of the B-21's data transfer / data-sharing to a cloud environment - providing critical mission information to a complete network.

Compared to the B-2A, the B-21 has a longer "beak" like nose and the nose leg appears to sit further aft with main legs given fewer wheel bogies. Externally, the cockpit is detailed with two windscreens (as opposed to four as seen in the B-2A) and indicates a side-by-side seating arrangement for the two pilots. The engine inlets/intakes are slimmer and integrated closer to the center mass of the fuselage, reducing the overall length of the fuselage itself (as well as its height). Attention is being paid to medium- / higher-altitude flight controlling by implementation of a simplified wing along the leading edges and "sawtooth" trailing edges.

Overall dimensions appear to indicate a smaller overall bomber form when compared to the relatively large B-2A.

At least six airframes were known to be under construction in early 2022 with hundreds of suppliers found in no fewer than forty states. A first-flight is expected for some time in 2023.©MilitaryFactory.com
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February 2016 - Work on the B-21 project began.

September 2016 - The name of "Raider" has been assigned to the B-21 by the USAF. It is in honor of the "Doolittle Raiders" of World War 2. The service seeks to purchase 100 B-21s at a cost of $564 million per aircraft.

March 2017 - It was announced that the B-21 had passed a pair of preliminary design reviews.

November 2017 - Requirements of the B-21 product, and its basic design, have been completed.

June 2018 - The B-21's Critical Design Review (CDR) is slated for completion before the end of 2018. The CDR phase precedes the component manufacturing step required to produce a flyable prototype.

October 2019 - The first B-21 airframe is under construction by Northrop Grumman out of the company's Palmdale, California facility. A first-flight is tentatively scheduled for December 2021.

February 2020 - New USAF renderings depict the soon-to-be B-21 Raider stealth bomber in hangar at Whiteman AFB.

August 2020 - The first B-21 test aircraft is entering final assembly. A first-flight is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2022 with deliveries to occur sometime in the middle of the decade at the earliest.

August 2020 - The B-21 avionics testbed has been announced as operational.

January 2021 - First-flight of the B-21 Raider prototype has been delayed from December 2021 until the middle of 2022.

June 2021 - Ellsworth Air Force Base has been selected as the first operational base to feature the new USAF B-21 stealth bomber.

September 2021 - The USAF has revealed that five test-minded B-21 airframes are currently under construction by Northrop Grumman, these examples nearing final assembly.

March 2022 - The initial B-21 airframe has begun ground testing. Official rollout and first-flight might occur before the end of the year.

May 2022 - The USAF expects to officially rollout the B-21 Raider bomber in 2022 with a first-flight tentatively planned for 2023.

May 2022 - Development delays have led to the USAF officially pushing the B-21's first-flight into 2023.

December 2022 - The B-21 was formally showcased in a highly-publicized roll-out ceremony by Northrop Grumman.

November 2023 - The B-21 completed its first-flight on November 10th, 2023.


Northrop Grumman - USA
United States (planned)
Operators National flag of the United States
Service Year
United States
National Origin
Project Status

Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.

Houses, or can house (through specialized variants), radar equipment for searching, tracking, and engagement of enemy elements.
Survivability enhanced by way of onboard electronic or physical countermeasures enacted by the aircraft or pilot/crew.
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
Mainplanes, or leading edges, features swept-back lines for enhanced high-speed performance and handling.
Fuselage volume includes space for internally-held weapons or special-mission equipment.
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
Assisted process of allowing its pilot and / or crew to eject in the event of an airborne emergency.
Supports pressurization required at higher operating altitudes for crew survival.

65.6 ft
(20.00 meters)
164.0 ft
(50.00 meters)
16.4 ft
(5.00 meters)
154,324 lb
(70,000 kilograms)
Empty Weight
374,786 lb
(170,000 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
+220,462 lb
(+100,000 kg)
Weight Difference
monoplane / shoulder-mounted / delta, tailless
Mainplane Arrangement
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represents the most popular modern mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are mounted at the upper section of the fuselage, generally at the imaginary line intersecting the pilot's shoulders.
Delta, Tailless
The delta planform lacks a conventional tailplane arrangement with all wing surface area taken up by the delta planform.

(Assumed): 2 x Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines developing over 15,000lb of thrust each (estimated).
621 mph
(1,000 kph | 540 knots)
Max Speed
466 mph
(750 kph | 405 knots)
Cruise Speed
+155 mph
(+250 kph | 135 knots)
Speed Difference
49,213 ft
(15,000 m | 9 miles)
6,835 miles
(11,000 km | 5,940 nm)

MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

Assumed internal weapons bay supporting up to 50,000lb of ordnance (conventional drop bombs and precision-guided bombs) including nuclear-tipped bombs/missiles.

B-21 - Official Series Designation applied in February of 2016.
LRS-B ("Long Range Strike - Bomber") - Project Name

General Assessment
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (621mph).

Graph average of 563 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (1)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).

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1 / 6
Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Image from the United States Air Force; Public Release.
2 / 6
Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Official artist rendering of the B-21 Stealth Bomber.
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Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Official artist rendering of the B-21 Stealth Bomber.
4 / 6
Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Image from official Northrop Grumman marketing materials.
5 / 6
Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Northrop Grumman artist impression of the LRS-B.
6 / 6
Image of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider
Northrop Grumman artist impression of the LRS-B.


Developments of similar form and function or related to the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider...

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