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    New concept images of the B-21 Raider were released earlier this week by US defense manufacturer Northrop Grumman, presenting observers with a closer look at the top secret long-range strike bomber.

    Virtual glimpses of the Raider in three different settings were provided by Northrop Grumman in the latest update of the bomber’s bio. Artist renderings show the B-21 stationed in the hangars of the Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, Missouri’s Whiteman Air Force Base and Dyess Air Force Base of Texas.

    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Whiteman AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)
    Northrop Grumman
    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Whiteman AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)

    The US Air Force revealed in March 2019 that the first fleet of the next-generation bombers would be housed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, as it “provides sufficient space and existing facilities necessary to accommodate simultaneous missions at the lowest cost and with minimal operational impact” when compared to Whiteman and Dyess Air Force Bases.

    However, the service noted, the other two bases will receive their own B-21 fleets "as they become available." The Air Force is expected to acquire around 100 of the Northrop Grumman-made aircraft, which cost approximately $656 million each.

    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. Ellsworth AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)
    Northrop Grumman
    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. Ellsworth AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)

    "We expect the first B-21 Raider to be delivered beginning in the mid-2020s, with subsequent deliveries phased across all three bases,” Heather Wilson, then-secretary of the Air Force, said in the March statement.

    It was also reported that the B-21 is likely to be capable of carrying a Long-Range Stand-Off Weapon (LRSO) - a nuclear-armed, air-launched cruise missile that is currently in development by both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin following the Pentagon’s awarding of two $900 million contracts in 2017.
    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Dyess AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)
    Northrop Grumman
    This is an artist rendering of a B-21 Raider concept in a hangar at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. Dyess AFB is one of the bases expected to host the new airframe. (Courtesy graphic by Northrop Grumman)

    According to the Air Force Acquisition Report on the LRSO, “nuclear certification” of the weapon with the B-21 would take place “within two years of declaring initial operational capability,” which is scheduled for 2030.

    As for the bomber itself, US Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson revealed in July 2019 that the B-21 is expected to take to the skies for the first time in December 2021 for a flight test.

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    Tags:
    Stealth bomber, Ellsworth Air Force Base, Long Range Strike-Bomber, bomber, long range strike bomber, US military, Northrop Grumman, B-21, B-21 Raider, US Air Force
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