Last week, the U.S. Air Force shared a new digitally rendered image and an official fact-sheet for its under-development B-21 “Raider” stealth bombers.
“The new rendering highlights the future stealth bomber with Edwards Air Force Base, California, as the backdrop,” the Air Force said in a press statement on Tuesday. “The 420th Flight Test Squadron based at Edwards AFB will plan, test, analyze and report on all flight and ground testing of the B-21 Raider.”
The bomber, being developed by Northrop Grumman, is expected to enter service with the Air Force by the mid-2020s, according to the Air Force statement. The B-21, which has a flying-wing design similar to its predecessor, the B-2 “Spirit” stealth bomber, which was also developed by Northrop Grumman and has been in service since 1997. The Air Force plans to incrementally replace the current Air Force B-1 “Lancer” and the B-2 “Spirit” bombers fleets with the new B-21s and modified B-52 “Stratofortress” aircraft, shifting from a three-bomber to two-bomber fleet.
The Air Force said the B-21 program “continues to execute the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase and is focused on scaling the manufacturing infrastructure and capacity across the industrial supply base to prepare for low rate initial production.”
According to the Air Force fact sheet, released in conjunction with the new digital graphic renders for the new stealth bombers, the B-21 “Raider” will be able to carry out missions with both conventional and nuclear weapons. The “Raider” will be “a component of a larger family of systems for conventional Long Range Strike, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, electronic attack, communication and other capabilities. “
“It will be nuclear-capable and designed to accommodate manned or unmanned operations,” the Air Force fact sheet added. “Additionally, it will be able to employ a broad mix of stand-off and direct-attack munitions.”
Randall Walden, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director, said, “Nuclear modernization is a top priority for the Department of Defense and the Air Force, and B-21 is key to that plan. The built-in feature of open systems architecture on the B-21 makes the bomber effective as the threat environment evolves. This aircraft design approach sets the nation on the right path to ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability.”
The newly released B-21 digital renders come just weeks after the Chinese magazine Modern Weaponry, published the Chinese defense contractor China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) shared images in its May issue of China’s under-development Xian H-20 bomber.
Air Data News tweeted the concept art for the Chinese bomber. “Chinese stealth bomber is depicted in state illustration. #xianh20 #StealthBomber https://bit.ly/3uBWwpM.”
China’s state-run Global Times later disputed the accuracy of the H-20 images, reporting the images of the bomber “are actually artist impressions by a military enthusiast” and that Modern Weaponry never confirmed the images of the bomber actually represented the H-20. The actual final design for the H-20 remains a matter of continued speculation.