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New Photos of Air Force B-21 Stealth Bomber Reveal Fascinating Design Details and Testing Milestones

Air Force B-21 stealth bomber (Photo: Popular Science)

New Photos of Air Force B-21 Stealth Bomber Reveal Fascinating Design Details and Testing Milestones

New B-21 stealth bomber is unveiled: What did we see? - ABC News

Recent photos of the Air Force B-21 stealth bomber offer intriguing insights into its design, including hidden features and testing progress. (Photo: ABC News)

Air Force B-21 Stealth Bomber: Intriguing Photos Shed Light on Enigmatic Design and Secrecy

According to Popular Science article, aerospace firms face a quandary when developing a groundbreaking stealth aircraft, investing years, if not decades, in its design and advanced technology, only to reveal limited design contours to the public while keeping crucial details concealed. This secrecy is especially vital concerning the exterior shape, as it plays a pivotal role in achieving stealth capabilities. Thus, the recent release of two photos of the enigmatic Air Force B-21 stealth bomber Raider by the United States Air Force on September 12 sparked intrigue among aviation enthusiasts.

The images, found on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) military media repository platform, bear a July 31 date. One image depicts the Raider inside a hangar, viewed head-on, while the other showcases the aircraft outdoors against a sunset backdrop. While these photos offer remarkable insights, it’s equally essential to acknowledge what they omit. The rear of the bomber, including the exhaust ports, remains concealed. Stealth technologies primarily aim to hide aircraft from radar waves, especially refracted ones. Jet engines, with their spinning blades at angles, are radar-reflective, leading to the turbines being tucked behind inlets.

Although exhaust ports are less radar-revealing, they can be detected by sensors sensitive to infrared and heat, making them significant targets. These images also predominantly obscure the control surfaces of the Raider’s flying wing body, leaving much to the imagination. However, the photographs hint at crucial design features. Notably, the “ejection hatch panels” located far back suggest limited pilot visibility, raising questions about the aircraft’s cockpit proportions. Aerial refueling markings are also visible atop the bulged spine.

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Air Force B-21 Stealth Bomber: Test Flight Preparations

Additionally, the displayed Air Force B-21 stealth bomber with serial number 0001 features a large probe, which will collect in-flight data during its upcoming test flight later this year. Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the B-21, released a photo of the bomber on the same day as the Air Force’s release, along with an announcement that the Raider is undergoing engine tests to ensure its power plant functions as intended.

The B-21, a successor to the B-2 Spirit, represents a significant shift in stealth aircraft design, despite drawing from similar design principles. The quarter view of the Raider emphasizes the hidden nature of its engine inlets, a vital feature for evading adversary radar, particularly from lower aspects. Until the Air Force B-21 stealth bomber embarks on its inaugural flight, understanding of this aircraft will evolve incrementally through filtered images.

The prospect of leaked details on forums, akin to recent incidents involving classified documents about other military aircraft, adds another layer of uncertainty to the puzzle surrounding the Air Force’s B-21 stealth bomber.

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