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New B-21 Raider Photo Released By Northrop Grumman

B 21 Grand Laureate Award 1
B-21 new photo
The B-21 Raider received the Grand Laureate award within the defense space at Aviation Week’s 66th Annual Laureate Awards. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

A new photo was released as part of a press release on the Aviation Week Grand Laureate Award received by Northrop Grumman for the B-21 Raider during the 66th Annual Laureate awards in Washington DC.

Northrop Grumman received the Aviation Week Grand Laureate Award for its role as the prime contractor delivering the B-21 Raider to the United States Air Force during the 66th Annual Laureate awards in Washington DC. Together with the press statement, the company also released a new photo of the B-21, which appears to have been taken before the rollout ceremony in 2022.

“On behalf of the entire nationwide B-21 Raider team, Northrop Grumman is honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “The Grand Laureate represents the pioneering spirit, innovative technology and trailblazing approach to contract management that has brought the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft to life.”

The aircraft is currently undergoing a robust flight test campaign executed by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after the first flight from Palmdale in November 2023 and the Low-Rate Initial Production contract in January 2024. Northrop Grumman added in the press release that the program is continuing to meet all DoD technical, schedule and affordability requirements on its path to operational capability.

Developed with the next generation of stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities and open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider will serve as the backbone of America’s bomber fleet, with 100 bombers on order to replace the B-2A Spirit and B-1B Lancer bombers. The B-21 might take an even bigger role in future, as the head of U.S. Strategic Command expressed interest in acquiring more than the planned 100 aircraft.

“The limited production rate of the B-21 is the only thing that I wish we could do a little quicker,” Gen. Anthony J. Cotton said during a recent Senate Armed Services Committee. “The fact that that is an incredible sixth-generation platform, all indications are that the weapons system is moving along at a great pace as far as delivery. The ability for production and the number of production, as a warfighter, obviously I would love more.”

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Developed with the next generation of stealth technology and an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider will serve as the backbone of America’s bomber fleet. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

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Developed with the next generation of stealth technology and an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider will serve as the backbone of America’s bomber fleet. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Former heads of the Air Force Global Strike Command and experts from the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies also said the U.S. Air Force might need as many as 150-225 B-21s should the United States end up in a war with a near-peer adversary like China. The Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, however, argued that such a decision might not happen soon.

“The decision point, with lead time accounted for, to go past 100 is not until the mid to late ’30s,” Lt. Gen. Richard G. Moore Jr. said. “So the commitment right now is to 100 aircraft. That takes us for procurement into the late ’30s. The decision whether or not to go past that may very well not be based on China, because it will be made at a time when we don’t foresee the security environment and we don’t need to.”

The General, however, did not exclude such a decision, adding that the service is thinking about it, but the decision doesn’t need to be made now. In the meanwhile, the Air Force is moving funds from research and development to the procurement of the new bomber in the Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request. Specifically, funding for the engineering, manufacturing and development phase will go from this year’s $3 billion to $2.7 billion, while procurement funding will increase from $2.3 billion to $2.7 billion.

About Stefano D’Urso
Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

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