The B-21 Raider Is the Stealth Bomber Future of the U.S. Air Force

B-21 Raider
May 29, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: B-21B-21 RaiderB-52B-2MilitaryDefenseBombersU.S. Air Force

The B-21 Raider Is the Stealth Bomber Future of the U.S. Air Force

The B-21 Raider strategic stealth bomber program remains on schedule, with ongoing flight tests at Northrop Grumman’s facility on Edwards Air Force Base.


Summary: The B-21 Raider strategic stealth bomber program remains on schedule, with ongoing flight tests at Northrop Grumman’s facility on Edwards Air Force Base.

B-21 Raider


The sixth-generation bomber, designed with advanced stealth and long-range capabilities, will enhance U.S. deterrence and strategic advantage.

Expected to be operational within the decade, the B-21 features an open architecture for future technology integration.

The Air Force plans to acquire at least 100 B-21 bombers, each costing around $750 million, to complement the existing B-52 fleet.

B-21 Raider: The Future of U.S. Strategic Bombing

The program to deliver the U.S. military’s most advanced strategic bomber is on schedule, according to senior U.S. officials. The Air Force expects the B-21 Raider strategic stealth bomber to be operational within the decade. 

The B-21 Raider is on Track 

“The B-21 Raider program is on track and continues flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif,” the Air Force said in a press release

The B-21 will have an open architecture to integrate new technologies and respond to future threats across the spectrum of operations, greatly enhancing mission effectiveness and joint interoperability in advanced threat environments, strengthening U.S. deterrence and strategic advantage.”

A senior Air Force official recently said much the same during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well,” Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said. “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.”

The B-21 Raider is a sixth-generation strategic stealth bomber under development by Northrop Grumman. Prototypes are undergoing intense flight and technology testing. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has cleared the aircraft for full-scale production. 

B-21 Raider

The B-21 Raider and Its Capabilities 

As one of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the U.S. military, the B-21 Raider carries highly sensitive tech. As such, little is known about the aircraft’s specific capabilities. The U.S. military has instead provided a broad overview of what the B-21 Raider should achieve. 

“Let's talk about the B-21's range. No other long-range bomber can match its efficiency. It won't need to be based in-theater. It won't need logistical support to hold any target at risk,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said during the B-21’s unveiling ceremony in December 2022. 

“Let's talk about the B-21's stealth. Fifty years of advances in low-observable technology have gone into this aircraft,” Austin added at the time. “And even the most sophisticated air-defense systems will struggle to detect a B-21 in the sky. Let's talk about the B-21's durability. You know, we really don't have a capability unless we can maintain it. And the B-21 is carefully designed to be the most maintainable bomber ever built.”  

Current estimates put the cost for a single B-21 Raider at around $750 million, although the Air Force is trying to lower that figure. But the aircraft promises to endow the U.S. military with capabilities that are absolutely necessary in future combat. For example, in a potential conflict with China, this jet could penetrate Beijing’s Anti-Access/Area Denial umbrella and deliver conventional and nuclear munitions to targets deep within Chinese air defenses. 

The Air Force has made plans to purchase at least 100 B-21 strategic stealth bombers. It wants to pair the high-tech strategic bomber with the venerable B-52 Stratofortress. 

About the Author

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

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