Photos Snapped of Sleek B-21 Raider as Bomber Moves Closer to Entering Service

A B-21 Raider conducts ground testing, taxiing and flying operations
A B-21 Raider conducts ground testing, taxiing and flying operations at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

America's newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, is undergoing test flights, and the Air Force has released new images of the sleek, UFO-shaped airplane taking to the skies as officials aim to have it enter service in a few years.

Newly released images, shared by the Air Force last week, show the bomber going through test flights from Edwards Air Force Base in California. The B-21 Raider was publicly unveiled in December 2022, marking the first bomber to enter the U.S. fleet in more than 30 years.

While many of the details behind the B-21's capabilities are not publicly known, the service said in a news release that the bomber is "the first aircraft that is more digital than not" and that the test flights have been giving officials insight into a wide range of possible uses.

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"It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way," Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 8, adding the program is on track to meet its deadlines.

The new B-21 Raider is slated to eventually replace the existing B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers in the Air Force's fleet, a major task as some of those aging aircraft face ongoing issues.

A B-21 Raider sits in a hangar
The B-21 Raider program is on track and continues flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

Earlier this year, the Air Force announced plans to dust off and return a decommissioned Lancer to service to replace another B-1 that caught fire during maintenance and needed more than $15 million in repairs. Officials determined it would be more affordable to recommission the older bomber that to repair the damaged one.

The B-1B has been with the Air Force since the mid-1980s, and the remaining fleet -- around 60 aircraft -- are stationed at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas and Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, South Dakota.

Additionally, in January, a B-1B crashed at Ellsworth during a training mission. All four crew members safely ejected, but the damage led to the runway being closed for several weeks and forced the service to reshuffle the fleet between South Dakota and Texas.

Ellsworth will become the B-21 Raider's main operating and formal training base, the service said in a news release. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and Dyess in Texas are the other preferred locations and will also receive the aircraft.

"The aircraft is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s with a production goal of a minimum of 100 aircraft," the service said in a news release.

Related: B-1B Lancer Bomber Crashes at Air Force Base in South Dakota During Training Mission

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