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America’s TOP-SECRET $745 MILLION stealth nuclear bomber takes off in first publicly acknowledged test flight

  Recently released images of  America's top-secret $745-million stealth nuclear bomber  showed the aircraft taking to the air for its f...

 Recently released images of America's top-secret $745-million stealth nuclear bomber showed the aircraft taking to the air for its first publicly acknowledged flight test.

The B-21 Raider was first unveiled in December 2022, but the U.S. government has been discreet about showing off the high-tech, radar-evading stealth nuclear bomber.

In pictures released on May 22, the futuristic bomber can be seen flying as it undergoes flight testing. The testing is an important step before a minimum first order of 100 of the stealth aircraft can be approved for manufacture.

Described as a "dual-capable bomber," the B-21 Raider can launch both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The B-21 Raider has a flying wing shape similar to its predecessor the B-2 Spirit but will incorporate advanced materials, propulsion and stealth technology to make the former more survivable in a future conflict. There are also plans to produce the B-21 Raider in variants with and without pilots.

During testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee in early May, Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Andrew P. Hunter said the B-21's flight testing is currently on schedule.

Hunter added that the program is "doing what flight test programs are designed to do," which is helping the Air Force learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, "but in a very, very effective way."

The B-21 Raider is a long-range, highly survivable, penetrating-strike stealth bomber. It will have a major role supporting national security objectives and assisting U.S. allies and partners worldwide. The B-21 Raider's weapon system is manufactured under the Air Force's contract with Northrop Grumman. 

According to the Air Force, the B-21 Raider is designed with "an open systems architecture, enabling rapid insertion of mature technologies, and allowing the aircraft to remain effective as threats evolve over time."  

The Air Force's statement revealed that the B-21 Raider is slated to enter service in the mid-2020s with a production goal of a minimum of 100 aircraft. It is a nuclear-capable craft and is the first of its kind to be introduced since the end of the Cold War.

B-21 Raider underwent extremely secretive development, last photographed in 2023

While press releases described the recent test flights as the B-21's first, it was spotted conducting a test flight in California late last year.

Matt Hartman, an aviation photographer, first caught the B-21 Raider in flight at Northrop Grumman's Palmdale facility in November 2023. He was able to record a video of the earlier, less public test flight from a road near Air Force Plant 42 Palmdale, California.

Hartman's footage featured the uniquely shaped B-21 Raider in flight and flanked by another plane before it took a sharp turn.

Aerospace company Northrop Grumman is producing six test aircraft, with each one estimated to cost at least $750 million.

The B-21 Raider is allegedly virtually "invisible" to all enemy stealth radars and will be equipped with the latest features in military tech. The aircraft weighs around 30,000 pounds, with a wing span of 172 feet and can reach maximum speeds of 621 miles per hour.

At a November unveiling event, Air Force Global Strike Commander Thomas A. Bussier said that the B-21 Raider is "the future backbone of the bomber fleet."

The Air Force plans to have at least 220 B-21 Raiders to replace old B-1 and B-2 bombers. The service has estimated that the program could cost at least $203 billion over 30 years to develop, purchase and maintain the B-21 fleet.

The B-21 Raider is part of the Pentagon's efforts to update the three legs of its nuclear triad, which also includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads. The Pentagon is shifting from the counterterrorism campaigns of the last few decades to meet China's rapid military modernization.

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