US Air Force releases first in-flight photos of B-21 Raider, newest nuclear stealth bomber

The U.S. Air Force released the first in-flight photos of its newest nuclear stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider, on Wednesday after defense officials confirmed the sleek military aircraft had taken to the sky in California.

“The flight test program is proceeding well,” Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month in Washington D.C. “It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way.”

The B-21 Raider in flight
The B-21 Raider in flight

The stealth, undergoing flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, remains on track to meet timelines for deployment next spring, the Air Force wrote in a statement released on Wednesday.

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The Air Force and Northrop Grumman, who manufactured the aircraft, unveiled the B-21, a new, long-range strike bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons, in December 2022.

The B-21 got its name from the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo and is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads making it more advanced than any current aircraft.

B-21 Raider in the air
B-21 Raider in the air

When the B-21 enters the service, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, will be is central operating base and training center. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas are listed as backup bases in the release.

"Designed to operate in tomorrow’s high-end threat environment, the B-21 will play a critical role in ensuring America’s enduring airpower capability," the Air Force wrote on its website.

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The B-21 will replace the military's current B-1 and B-2 models, "becoming the backbone of the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet."

The B-21 is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years, and is one of six under production, according to the Air Force. The Air Force previously reported it expects to eventually have at least 100 of the new bombers.

Contributing: Mike Snider

Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at and follow her on X @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: B-21 Raider stealth bomber photos in flight released by Air Force