One of the most anticipated events in the aerospace world is set to happen in just one month.
On Dec. 2, the world will finally get a glimpse at the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, a new stealth bomber aircraft that has been described by its manufacturer (opens in new tab) as "the most advanced military aircraft ever built." The company was first awarded the contract to build the B-21 for the United States Air Force (USAF) in 2015, and its entire production has been shrouded in secrecy ever since.
That secrecy is about to come to an end. The United States Air Force confirmed in an Oct. 20 statement (opens in new tab) that the B-21 will be revealed in a Dec. 2 ceremony at Northrop Grumman's production facility in Palmdale, California. "The unveiling of the B-21 Raider will be a historic moment for our Air Force and the nation," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. said in the statement.
Little is known about the capabilities or configuration of the B-21. What little has been publicly disclosed, according to a USAF fact sheet (opens in new tab), is that the B-21 will be capable of crewed and uncrewed flight and will be able to carry and deploy both conventional and nuclear weapons.
In addition, the stealth bomber is said to be capable of carrying out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions (ISR), conducting electronic warfare (such as jamming or spoofing radar and communications systems), and will feature an "open systems architecture" that will allow it to be upgraded with new capabilities in the future.
Doug Young, sector vice president and general manager at Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, said in a company statement (opens in new tab) published on Sept. 20 that the B-21 "showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people working every day to deliver this aircraft" and is "a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence.”
According to the same statement, there are six B-21 test aircraft in various stages of final assembly at the company's Palmdale plant. While the USAF plans for the Raider's first flight to take place in 2023, military officials have yet to announce firm target dates.
The B-21 Raider's unveiling ceremony on Dec. 2 will be an invitation-only event.