The US Air Force’s B-21 Raider strategic bomber has made its maiden flight, which was supposed to be on the quiet, but freelance photojournalist Matt Hartman captured footage of the aircraft on Friday morning taking off from Palmdale, California.
Though the Northrop Grumman B-21 is intended to work alongside and eventually replace the Air Force fleet of B-1B, B-2, and B-52 strategic heavy bombers, the US government seems keen to treat it like it’s still a secret project under tight wraps. While there was an invitations-only rollout and some images were released, very few details have been provided on the first US bomber in 40 years.
Even the beginning of taxi trials was kept under wraps until rumors and images on social media made the Air Force confirm that the trials had actually begun.
A similar thing occurred when a video of the B-21 in flight was posted on X. Shortly after this, the Air Force again confirmed the truth, that the B-21 had indeed taken to the air and made a short flight to Edwards Air Force Base in California for ground testing, taxiing, and flight operations.
“The B-21 Raider is in flight testing,” said Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek. “Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wing’s B-21 Combined Test Force to provide survivable, long-range, penetrating strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners.”
Currently, the B-21 fleet consists of a handful of test prototypes but when it’s declared operational in 2027, this will grow to at least 100 of the bombers. The new sixth-generation bomber will boost the existing fleet consisting of the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and the B-52J Stratofortress, with the B-21 replacing them all sometime in the 2050s.
Source: US Air Force