THEmade its first test flight Friday, bringing the futuristic fighter jet closer to the country’s next nuclear-armed stealth bomber.
The Raider flew to Palmdale, California, where it was tested and developed by Northrop Grumman.
The Air Force plans to build 100 fighter jets, which will have a flying wing shape similar to their predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, but will incorporate advanced materials, propulsion and stealth technology to make them more resilient in a future conflict. The aircraft is expected to be produced in both manned and unmanned variants.
“The B-21 Raider is in the flight testing phase,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.
Such tests are a crucial step in the campaign to provide “penetrating, long-range, survivable strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, its allies and partners,” it said. Stefanek.
The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber in more than 30 years, and almost every aspect of the program is classified. Northrop Grumman and the Air Force attempted to protect details of the program to prevent China from accessing the weapon’s technology and building a similar version, as it has done with other weapon systems advanced American aircraft such as the F-35 joint strike fighter.
When unveiling the bomber in December, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the B-21’s range was unmatched by any other bomber.
“It will not need to be based in the theater of operations, nor will it need logistical support to endanger a target,” said the Secretary of State.
Austin said it would be difficult for adversaries to detect the stealth aircraft.
“Fifty years of advancements in low visibility technology have gone into this aircraft,” he said. “Even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have difficulty detecting a B-21 in the sky.”
The Air Force said the “B-21” designation was chosen because the aircraft was the first new bomber of the 21st century, while the name “Raider” was chosen to represent the Doolittle Raiders, which led a surprise attack during World War II.
The B-21 is part of the Pentagon’s effort to modernize all three prongs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched nuclear warheads, as it invests in new weapons to respond to China’s rapid military modernization.
Northrop Grumman Corp. is based in Falls Church, Virginia.