B-21 Raider takes off

| November 15, 2023 | 30 Comments

Seems that the newest toy in the Air Force’s toybox has successfully taken to the air.

“As confirmed by the U.S. Air Force, the B-21 Raider is in flight test. The robust flight test campaign is being executed by a Combined Test Force comprised of Northrop Grumman and Air Force personnel that will validate our digital models and moves us another step closer to reaching operational capability,” the Northrup Grumman statement said.

Stefanek noted that the first operational B-21s are on track for delivery in the mid-2020s. The first bombers will go to Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, which will host the B-21 training unit and serve as the aircraft’s first main operating base.


As a dual-capable penetrating strike stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider is capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It will be able to support joint and coalition forces across the full spectrum of operations, Austin said, and is also designed to be flexible enough to meet the evolving threat environment. “The Raider was built with open-system architecture, which makes it highly adaptable,” Austin (SecDef Lloyd Austin – ed.) said. “As the United States continues to innovate, this bomber will be able to defend our country with new weapons that haven’t even been invented yet. And the B-21 is multi-functional. It can handle anything from gathering intel, to battle management, to integrating with our allies and partners. And it will work seamlessly across domains, and theaters, and across the joint force.”


This is the first “6th Gen” bomber from the PR – smaller than the B-2 but resembles it heavily, with better integrated systems and designed with  much more sophisticated software. Looks quite a bit like a B-2, doesn’t it?Although that may be due to function dictating design, just like why most modern cars look alike – eventually physics dictates the looks.

Believe I read that the electronic counter-measures can actively change its radar and reduced infrared signatures in flight? (Even if they reduce them to simulate a sparrow, a Mach 1 bird just might draw a little attention if found.) Seems like a heckuva piece of technology though.

Category: Air Force

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If approved to be built, I can only imagine how long systems maintenance training will take. It’s (hopefully) all good when shiny and new. But shiny and new eventually gives way to old and trade in time.

Designed to carry weapons not yet built? Is that MIC speak for you need a new plane to carry our latest and greatest new weapons systems?


*Former Northrup Grumman employee but not with this program.
A lot of lessons learned from past stealth aircraft are baked into this new bird from what I’ve been told. If that will translate into a better fully mission capable rate remains to be seen. Having more on hand with better loggie support will help for sure opposed to the limited number we had with the B-2. You know back when they told us that “big wars” were no longer a thing & we didn’t need big bad bombers no more *cough, stupid peace-nicks, cough*
Designed for weapons not yet built means an “open” architecture baseline for all systems. Not the contractor proprietary stuff (software code, hardware, etc.) that DoD had to battle with a specific maker (NG, Boeing, LM, etc.) previously all the time. It allows for the recent wide variations we’ve seen in control systems for making basic bombs and guided missiles more lethal along with easier upgrades to C2ISR systems.
Not going to lie though there is a lot riding on the B-21’s future success – digital engineering could be a game changer if they’ve done it well.


“Designed for weapons not yet built means…”

Hopefully it also means a large, unobstructed bomb bay capable of being adapted to fire/drop just about anything. And lots of it.


And when it’s outlived it’s useful life, there will still be B-52’s doing the heavy lifting.


I would love this to be true! As they show options for future digital and advanced B-52 possibilities it boggles the mind this platform has been flying so long. Fingers crossed the new engine refit effort goes smoothly. Reminds me of the old Dale Brown book “Flight of the Old Dog” about an upgraded mega-fortress B-52.


Full disclosure: I’m an Air Force brat. Dad was a B-52 EW. I grew up climbing all over Buffs with all the other crew brats. I have a special affinity for that particular aircraft. I think I’ve read everything Dale Brown wrote, but Flight of the Old Dog was my favorite.


Nice! Old Cold War fan of the B-52 myself although I ended up working F-16s when I first got in. My dad’s best friend was AF Ammo during Vietnam, think he was at Anderson AB but not sure – his stories of BUFF’s fully loaded with bombs hanging pretty much everywhere on them just amazed me. First time I watched Ammo load my F-16 with a pair of 500 pounders I really got a wake up considering how much the -52 could carry in comparison.
Dale Brown was a dang good author but like you Flight of the Old Dog has a special spot in my memory. Must have been really cool growing up in the glory of the Buff’s, nothing quite like her.


Former AF myself, and it really was neat when we did quick turn exercises at Kadena. Loading fuel, weapons and anything else they needed to do while 1 engine continued to run.

Fun times.


Dad was stationed at March in the 60’s but between around ’64 to ’69 when he retired, he was flying out of Anderson more than he was home. It was definitely an interesting time to be a kid. He’d have been 100 today, happy B-Day, LtCol D!

Last edited 20 days ago by SFC D

A well deserved toast to your late Dad, sounds like he was one helluva good EW!


I am always amazed when I remember that the B-52, among other high-tech items (KC-135), was designed and built by people using slide rules, not computers, using blueprints drawn by hand.

Dennis - not chevy

I was killing time one day (read: reliving my active duty time) when I stepped into a public library. This library had a huge selection of vintage magazines (Look, Life, etc) and I read through several from the year I was born. There it was, right on the front cover, the B-58, the replacement for the B-52. Yeah right, when the United Federation of Planets sets off on five year missions to infinity and beyond – B-52’s will be on hand to show them how it’s done.


“B” as in Billions…..twenty one of them.
Raider as in Treasury.

Green Thumb

Hope the radio works….


“…this bomber will be able to employ Flag/GOs that haven’t even retired yet…” There! FIFY

All warm and fuzzy that a new whizz bang Aerial Artillery Platform will be available for the Airedales to play with, but…. (a) will we actually build 100 of them? (b) has sniffy creepy already gotten the plans to his ChiCom handlers so they can either build a knock off for 1/10th the price and/or have a cheap counter measure for it? (c) build a bunch so that in a few years we can chop them up for another ill advised “Arms Limitations Treaty? (d) will it be able to operate/train year round in Ellsworth’s weather conditions? I would think that we could find a more temperate climate location for this aircraft…and then NOT tell the whole world where it’s gonna be. They’d find out soon enough.

Personally I think we need to do more on systems that would actually defend the Homeland from the hordes of invaders that are already here.


Modern technology/new and improved is a wonderful thing, but, full disclosure…I still thinks the below is the prettiest Aerial Artillery Platform, EVAH. Gets me a bone(r) over a Bone. I liked the ‘Vark, too. Jes’ sayin’ YMMV

comment image


Sadly we flew the wings off the “Bone” during our sandbox days. She is still sexy as all hell and we still got plenty of cool new stuff we could add to her but damn the maintenance to keep her going is killing the folks on the line and in the back shop.
My fingers and toes are crossed that the B-21 proves its worth to replace the B-1 & B-2 and that they actually build the numbers we should to make a viable air fleet. Also hope we learned and applied a lot of lessons from that hot mess known as the F-35 program. Only time will tell on that though…


Roger all of the above, SCFO…and Thanks for the input/reply. Welcome Home, good to see fresh blood/new posters here @ TAH, ‘specially when it’s a Vet (gabaf) AND an ebil grubermint MIC deplorable. You’re giving us “Old Dogs” some good intel. As a young lad and on into my teen years, I lived just a few air miles, in the flight path, of RAFB that had a wing (or 2?) of SAC BUFFs, fully loaded and on nuke alert status. When they would scramble alert they came so low over the house it was almost as if you could reach up and rub their bellies. Trees bent, house shook, dog howlin’, cat skeered, and pissed off squirrels, but the black smoke kilt the skeeters so there was that. Good Times! Mom Unit had a paying gig at the base making up the sammiches for the gut trucks and box lunches for the Air/Flight Line Crews so I had a number of trips out there with her to feed the troops. Them APs were real friendly till you got too close to their guard line. Married older brother missed the draft call up but became a wing wiper a coupla years after I enlisted in the (GO) Army. He was SAC for most of his career, serving on Guam with the Buffs there, working on every aircraft in the inventory from ’73 til ’99, including the B-1 and then the B1B when it was brought back by Reagan. He was part of the transition team that brought the Bone to Robins initially and was back and forth between RAFB and Ellsworth. During one of my visits in the ’90s he was able to get me a full tour of the Alert Aircraft, facilities, a front row seat to touch n goes, a viewing of practice bomb drops on the range, and got to fly a Bone Simulator on a run against the Bad Guys. But like you, and his troops, said…sexy aircraft, like my ex-wife, but very high maintenance…like ALL my ex wives. Better to have and not need than to… Read more »


Thanks for the kind welcome KoB, much appreciated! Been watching the site since I first learned about stolen valor crazies after my first tour in Iraq in 06. I’d heard some nutty stories about folks claiming to have been POWs or Purple Heart vets but thought it was just Internet nutjobs. Wow, was I wrong! Sounds like you had an interesting upbringing around all those SAC folks. Nothing like being right under a BUFF at take off! Those SAC folks were damn proud & considering the hell they put up with doing alerts & all the maintenance those heavies need they more than earned it. I was TAC in the later half of the 80’s starting with the block 10 F-16A/B before moving to the C/D models. I got lucky moving into the 64th Aggressors when they retired the F-5s and upgraded to F-16s – those were good times. I rolled off the flight line into comm (big AF needed computer folks more than maintainers at that time) and been doing off the wall, weird comm support ever since. Was lucky enough to roll into & out of AF Space Cmd a few times (hence my “Space” nickname) so while they tried to keep me tied to a desk under a bunker or mountain I’d sneak out for a bit to get to the “real world”. One thing nice about comm stuff was everyone needs to talk to each other (including other services) so you meet lots of smart people that just need you to get things “talking”. Then they add you to their program and suddenly you have a job for life! I learned a lot from the other services too – my first tour in Iraq was joint under Army Gen Dempsey. Lots of good Army, Navy and Marines folks out there back then. When I retired the MIC looked me up and who was I to turn down a steady paycheck? 🙂 Been a couple years since I worked for Northrup but I got my fingers crossed they don’t screw this beautiful B-21 bird up like Lockheed… Read more »


Cool beans! Good work…if you can get it. We can (and will) talk about the comm rats, but we can’t talk without them…unless we have a piece of string and a coupla snuff cans. My line construction crew upgraded all of the local Northrop facilities comms with fiber a few years back. At my suggestion we left the copper fed direct lines back to the CO as a backup for…reasons. Had to switch some of the D-Mark equipment out at night so they didn’t get knocked off line during business hours. The techies that had to go into the facility were hand picked, up dated back ground checked, and had an escort thru that whole process. Time & 1/2 $ got real good.

Brother’s last gig before he hung it up was on the 130J program. He turned down an AF One gig saying he didn’t want to spend his last coupla years polishing an airplane for a politician (Slick Willie). He’d been a Chief for several years and a buddy couldn’t stripe up until somebody retired, so Brother said BYE!.

Lockheed made some decent stuff but they played hell when they took a perfectly good C130 Herky Bird and turned it into a P3 Orion.

FIRST (ht2 Tox) Round is on me…all the rest are on your expense account. *grin*


I spent a few months of my formative years living near Wright-Patterson AFB, which had a few of those B-52s. I still remember some 3:00 AM wake-ups with B-52s skimming the rooftops. Takes a while to get back to sleep after that. Now that I think about it, I spent all of my formative years (and then some) living near one “ground zero” or another.


Oh yes, the B-58 Hustler! Another amazing and sexy bomber. Was blessed to catch a visit with one at the old Chanute AFB museum before that place closed a few years back.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

is this powered by electricity or aviation fuel.


Unicorn farts.


No dirty exhaust, just streams of colorful rainbows.


Eco-friendly, recycled cooking oil.

Prior Service

Load that bad boy up with a full bay of JDAMs and send it to Iran—Now! If it survives, buy more. If it doesn’t, fix it and do another live fire test.


You don’t need lots of bombs, just the right type.


“As a dual-capable penetrating strike stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider is capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It will be able to….”

As long as it is at night and in clear weather.