On December 2, 2022, the U.S. Air Force is ready to show the world the latest and greatest in stealth bombing technology: the B-21 Raider. Together with its creator, Northrop Grumman, the unveiling will take place at the aerospace giant’s Palmdale, California, facility. The project has been ongoing since the company won the contract in 2015, and now, the fruits of their labor are coming to life. Learn more about the release and what the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider has to offer.
Unveiling the B-21 Raider: When Will the B-21 Fly?
It’s a bit unsure whether or not the B-21 Raider will fly during its unveiling in December, as many believe its first flight may occur in 2023. We guess we’ll all find out on Friday… well, not exactly.
You see, as you would imagine, information on cutting-edge military technology isn’t always widely available. Especially when it comes to aircraft that are capable of handling long-range and nuclear strikes. With that said, the unveiling is invite-only.
Even as the onset of routine flights is a possibility for the B-21 Raider as early as next year, it’s not expected to enter service for several more years. All things considered, hopefully, we never get to see all of its capabilities in action.
A-12 Avenger vs. B-21 Raider
The A-12 Avenger II would’ve been America’s first real “stealth fighter,” but its controversial cancellation would mean this reality never came to light. This honor would instead go to the F-117, a.k.a. the Nighthawk.
Now, B-21 Raider bombers are poised to carry the latest tradition of American stealth and aerial warfare. Both could carry out long-range bombing attacks as well as strikes with nuclear weapons.
The A-12 Avenger earned its name from the Grumman TBF Avenger, a World War II Navy torpedo-bomber. America’s proposed all-weather stealth bomber was to pay homage to the WWII aircraft, which first began defending our country during the Battle of Midway.
The Doolittle Raiders are the inspiration for the B-21 Raider. During the Doolittle Raid, also known as the Tokyo Raid, U.S. Army Air Force men held a surprise attack that was pivotal in WWII for morale.
While the A-12 Avenger never saw the light of day, it’s clear that the B-21 soon will. It’s unsure whether or not it will see action, but it will be ready should duty call.
Overall, it’s a bit difficult to compare an aircraft that never was to one that is yet to arrive. The features of the A-12 may have never panned out, and those on the B-21 technically don’t exist yet. But both are essential figures in aerial defense for the United States.
Technology requires growth, trial and error, innovation, and advancing past what was once possible. This is why while the A-12 never defended our country, it still helped push technology forward. The B-21 Raider will do the same, all while leading the way in the present.
“The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence. The Raider showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people working every day to deliver this aircraft,” said sector VP and GM of Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, Doug Young, via press release.
What Is the Fighter to Accompany B-21 Raider?
The Air Force wants a new fighter to accompany its new stealth bomber, but when, where, or what that looks like is still to be determined. Known as the Penetrating Counter-Air (PCA), the fighter is more of a concept than a reality so far.
You can find mockups of what it may look like online, but for now, there’s still work to be done for its completion. The construction of the PCA, however, could prove vital. As it stands, the B-21 Raider may not be able to reach certain potential targets, including Western China.
How Many B-21 Bombers Are There?
There are at least six aircraft being manufactured at this moment, with many expecting a minimum of 100 to be created. Some figures point to around 150 to 200 B-21 Raiders being operational when everything is all said and done. The estimated cost is around $2 billion for each aircraft.
Read next: How the B-25 Used Broomsticks to Bomb Tokyo
Image: Artist rendering of the B-21 in a hangar courtesy of Northrop Grumman.