New USAF Flying Wing, B-21 Has Key Changes From B-2 Bomber

There were months living only with illustrations whose characteristics did not even converge between them until on Friday, December 2nd, the US Air Force (USAF) and the Northrop Grumman show for the first time the B-21 Raiderthe country’s new stealth bomber.

The most advanced military aircraft known, the new flying wing harks back to its predecessor B-2 Spirit as expected, but it brings important changes, visible even with the little information available.

The B-21 was introduced along the lines of the B-2 34 years ago, in a hangar at USAF Plant 42 in Palmade, California. This time, however, care was taken not to expose the aircraft during the day and also to prohibit any flight or photographic angle other than frontal. In 1988, Aviation & Week obtained aerial footage of the B-2 revealing its rear end, much to the dismay of the US government.

In addition to the image of the Friday event, the Air Force released two high-resolution images of the Raider and they are the ones that speak more than the text of the official statement.

Although no technical data is available at the moment, it is possible to list some facts based on the two photos.

Distant side windows may indicate a concern to reduce exposure (USAF)

The B-21 looks even smaller than the B-2

The wingspan of the new bomber suggests that it is smaller than the B-2 and perhaps with a greater sweep angle. But it’s the landing gear that denounces a supposedly lighter weight. The nose gear is less robust than the Spirit’s and the main landing gear has only one set of two wheels against four of the B-2.

The upper part of the Raider is less protruding

The comparative image above shows that Northrop Grumman has taken care to reduce the exposure of the cockpit and especially the engine air intake, now practically hidden over the wings. It remains to be seen how the B-21 will behave at high angles of attack as the B-2 has openings over the fairings to divert air to the engines.

The most hidden air intake and the great thickness of the “fuselage” (USAF)

B-21 “fuselage” volume appears larger

As they are flying wings, the B-2 and B-21 depend on the distribution of components and weapons in the central portion of the structure, but in the Raider this central volume seems larger while in the Spirit it extended more towards the tips.

The B-21 even has a very peculiar window format.

In the illustrations released before the presentation, the B-21 appeared with a windshield and side windows similar to the B-2, but an image ended up being inconsistent with this configuration. In it, the windshield appeared separated from the side windows and at unusual angles. In the end, Raider follows precisely this configuration, which can perhaps be justified by a smaller area of ​​​​reflection.

There are those who see the possibility of the B-21 having a double sweep on the wings

Light gray instead of two-tone dark gray

Northrop Grumman suggests it developed a lighter shade of gray surface on the B-21, as opposed to the two shades of dark gray on the B-2.

New Northrop Grumman logo?

An unknown symbol is painted on the tip of the nose, but a search is enough to notice that they are the union of two old Northrop and Grumman logos.

Smaller landing gear and supposedly new Northrop Grumman (USAF) logo

Less form, more content

As you can see, the B-21 Raider still has to raise many questions and discoveries during its development program and this is no coincidence.

If in 1988, the Soviet Union seemed incapable of developing a similar bomber, now China has the resources to reproduce a similar aircraft, although the stealth bomber currently under development is close to being unveiled.

Therefore, care was taken not to expose strategic details. It’s what we don’t see that can mean the Raider’s great strategic advantages. The surface of the aircraft shown, for example, has practically no marks that would indicate systems, equipment and sensors like those that appear on the B-2.

More important is what’s inside the B-21. As a 6th generation aircraft, the stealth bomber is a changeable platform, capable of receiving new technologies without great difficulty and being easily rebuilt if necessary. It is in this paradigm shift that the USAF is betting to make the Raider a constant threat from the end of the decade.

Illustration of the B-21 released months ago indicated the shape of the windshield (Disclosure)

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