During Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown’s speech at this year’s Air & Space Forces Association’s mega conference outside of Washington, D.C., the soon-to-be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs dropped two new images of the B-21 Raider. While the stealth bomber was rolled out in December of last year, it remains cloaked in secrecy. Brown, the top Air Force uniformed officer, didn’t specifically reference the images in his presentation.
Up until today, only one angle of the full aircraft has been seen by the public — head-on — and in a very controlled environment at the bomber’s unveiling. Aside from a close-up of the cockpit area at an angle, all imagery published since then has been from the same head-on perspective, although it has progressively shown the aircraft in more detail. Now we have our first quartering view of the flying-wing jet, which provides significant details about its design. A new head-on image also gives us a better idea of the bomber’s actual size. Both images were taken at Northrop Grumman’s facility at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
We will be updating this post shortly with our full analysis, but in the meantime, here are those images taken from the video presentation:
According to the U.S. military’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) website, both of these pictures were taken on July 31 of this year. This is just days after Northrop Grumman announced that the first pre-production Raider had been “powered on” for the first time. This is an important milestone in getting the aircraft ready for its first flight, which is still expected to come before the end of the year.
“We’re still hopeful on having first flight this year,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall told The War Zone and other outlets at a media roundtable on the sidelines of the Air & Space Forces’s conference yesterday. “If I were to say it will, I would be making a very specific prediction. And I never do that about an acquisition program for something that hasn’t happened yet. Okay?”
“We’re going through a number of things to get ready for first flight,” he continued. “There is always risk involved… Something can surprise you. So, absent any unexpected surprises… [and] surprises do with acquisition programs.”
“There’s a series of steps that we’re tracking,” Kendall added. “There’s a detailed schedule.”
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