The photo, that appears to be genuine, shows the rear-end of the new, secretive U.S. stealth bomber, during taxi tests.
On Oct. 25, 2023, the first images of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber during ground testing outside of its Palmdale hangar have started to circulate online. The picture, posted online by a now deleted user on Reddit, shows the new stealth bomber apparently idle under its own power, with security flanking the aircraft. The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman have not yet released photos and info, apart from a statement released to media by a spokesperson confirming the beginning of the taxi tests.
Although we can’t fully confirm it, the photo appears to be authentic and not doctored, taken from a location outside the airport (?). Noteworthy, for the first time, the rear end of the airframe, including the exhaust, can be seen. In the case of the B-2 Spirit, the exhaust area was classified and no photo was ever released of it during the tests, but it appears that the B-21 was caught “off guard” and the exhaust photographed, although we can’t still see if the bomber has two or four engines.
The are multiple details that can help confirm that the one in the photo is indeed a B-21 and not a B-2. The grey colour, combined with the more concave underbelly and the engine nacelles almost flush with the rest of the blended-wing are the most obvious features that can be recognized from the B-21. Other details belonging to the new bomber are the two-wheel main landing gear, the lateral door for the nose landing gear, the number of the flight surfaces.
This photo also visually confirms for the first time the planform of the Raider, showing that it is indeed missing the saw-tooth trailing edge that can be found on the B-2 Spirit. Actually, the B-2 started with a planform similar to the one of the B-21, however that had to be changed to increase the stability during strike missions at low altitude, a requirement which has not been requested for the new sixth-gen bomber.
Back in September, Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, said that engine runs were in progress at Northrop Grumman’s facilities at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, with the first flight expected by the end of calendar year 2023. With the program now transitioning to the taxi tests, we are getting closer to the first flight, which will see the Raider moving from Air Force Plant 42 to Edwards Air Force Base.