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After being revealed several times in photos, Northrop Grumman’s future B-21 Raider stealth bomber for the US AirAir Force has just made its first flight. It did not escape the aeronautical community and the images of this flight, as it reached the Edwards base in California (United States), are already dissected by specialists to learn more about the capabilities and characteristics of the bomber. To set the tone, even before observing theaéronefaéronefthe current prototype porteporte on its gear hatch before the name of Cerberusthat is to say the disturbing Cerberus, the chienchien of Hades who in Greek mythology prevents the dead from returning to life. During this flight, we can see the presence of a long cable trailing at the rear of the fuselagefuselage. This cable allows you to tow what we call a conecone leak. It collects “static” atmospheric measurements of flight conditions. The data recovered is associated with that of the large probe collecting “dynamic” data placed on the front left of the device. These data, to which are added those collected by many others sensorssensorsmake it possible to precisely evaluate the behavior of the aircraft during its flight and to check whether its instruments are correctly calibrated.
In terms of appearance, the B-21 has an air of B-2, with its elongated and flat profile to ensure maximum stealthstealth. The rear of the plane is different, the end of its cell is similar to a diamond. The aircraft appears smaller, with a wingspan estimated at around 45 meters. The B-2 measures almost 52.5 meters. Her neznez which is mixed with the leading edge of the wing is shaped like a duckbill. With the low position of the side windows, this gives it an aggressive air which corresponds to the image that one can have of such a device.
In this video posted on X (formerly Twitter) we can see the B-21 taking off or landing. He is accompanied by an F-16. © Matt Hartman @ShorealoneFilms
But what experts or enlightened amateurs especially want to know is what the purpose of the two strange horns, or pointed ears placed on either side of the passenger compartment, is. This unique configuration has given rise to much speculation since the first public images of the B-21 were released. These would not be data sensors for flight tests, but retractable fins which would be used to optimize the flow of air over the fuselage and the fan inlets. This would ensure a good air supply to the reactors during the takeoff and landing phases. To ensure maximum stealth, it must be noted that the air inlets of the reactors are quite thin, like gills. This characteristic, although it reduces the radar signature, presents a disadvantage in ensuring the proper functioning of the engines during these phases, hence the presence of these “pointed ears”. Still on the engine level, given that the engines are buried deep in the fuselage to increase stealth, it still remains impossible to know how many there are, and what type they are. They are certainly smaller than on the B-2 and there could well be four of them.
Limited weapon carry
What also attracted a lot of attention was the belly of the B-21. The numerous photos, taken on the ground by amateurs, give a precise idea of its ammunition hold. Given the size of the B-21, it is already estimated that it has a payload capacity halved compared to the B-2. Thus, the bomber would be limited to carrying a single GBU-57A/B type missile. Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). On the other hand, this weapons bay will certainly be modular to carry different modern weapon systems and in particular drones to ensure collaborative combat missions. The question remains whether the hatches visible near the hold are used to carry other defensive weapons, such as rockets, or whether they are only access for maintenance. As for the on-board operational sensors, what we see from the plane does not allow us to know more and it must be emphasized that this Cerberus is still only a prototype.
The US Air Force unveils its future nuclear stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider
Article from Sylvain BigetSylvain Bigetpublished on March 13, 2023
With its ghostly appearance, the B-21 Raider is revealed in photos. We see a design and a coating allowing its radar signature to be erased as much as possible for unprecedented stealth. The US Air Force’s future nuclear-capable bomber is also expected to have record range.
Here are the first real images unveiling the US Air Force’s future nuclear stealth bomber. It will be called the B-21 Raider and although little was known about it, we already know its estimated cost of $692 million. On the photos released, we can see a wide shot providing some information on the design of this B-21. A zoom on its canopycanopy also shows that the plane will be flown. In terms of its design, we can only see common features with the B-2 Spirit bomber, but with lines that will give the plane more stealth.
Where the B-21 stands out is its composite coating of colorcolor white. It would be more robust than that of the B-2 and would increase stealth by better absorbing radar waves. The shape of the cockpit also helps reduce the radar signature and we notice that there is no roughness between the canopy and the cabin. Everything seems smooth with the impression that thin adhesive strips have been stuck to eliminate any presence of joints or protruding elements. From the front, we barely notice the air intakes of the engine which look like gills extending from the wing.
Clear radar signature
In these photos, it clearly appears that the aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman sought to create a very smooth wing profile hiding the different elements of the bomber, whether the engine, the cabin and the moving elements. Thus, at the rear, as for the B-2 Spirit, if there is no fin, on the other hand, the flying wing seems to have a surface alairealaire substantial and we do not find the distinctive W-shaped trailing edge of the current bomber.
As for the characteristics of the strategic bomber, little is still known. It is supposed to have unprecedented autonomy to be able to carry out long-range missions from American territory without needing to land on a forward base or be refueled in flight. In addition to its function as a bomber to carry out long-range strikes, it can be used for surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It would also be equipped with electronic attack capabilities. The bomber would also have another particularity, it could just as easily be piloted as evolve autonomously in drone mode with a IAIA the controls. It would also be capable of serving as a control platform for a swarm of drones. The plane should make its first laps this year and the US Air Force plans to integrate it into its fleet from 2027. At least 100 copies could be ordered. It should replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 SpiritSpirit by 2040. It would also be able to retire the venerable B-52 from 2050.
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