B-21 Raider Spotted During Test Flight


A cropped and digitally altered (to highlight the shape of the aircraft) screenshot from the video posted on X by @FueledbyLOLZ

A video appears to show the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber during a test flight over California.

The B-21 Raider is carrying out test flights out of Edwards Air Force Base, in California, where the aircraft landed at the end of its first flight from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale on Nov.10, 2023.

Although the U.S. Air Force has been tight-lipped about the status of the secretive aircraft since then, with no further details or photos of the bomber’s first flight and arrival at Edwards AFB, released, it acknowledged that the flight test campaign is proceeding after a possible safety chase aircraft was spotted on flight tracking websites with the callsign “Raider”. A spokesperson confirmed, in fact, that the bomber flew on Jan. 17, 2024, adding that the Air Force would not provide further details about the test program nor the number of flights the aircraft has flown.

The stealth bomber, which was named “Cerberus”, took to the skies again on Apr. 4, 2024, as a video posted on X and shot with a smartphone seems to show. The clip, that appears to be genuine, shows the B-21 Raider flying at high altitude, apparently with the landing gear retracted (whereas, during the first flight, as always happens with all aircraft, the gear remained down for the flight), escorted by a chase aircraft.

The quality and distance of the subject make it impossible for us to assess whether the Raider is still equipped with the “trailing cone” (observed also on other types), usually a nylon cable with a stabilizing cone deployed in flight, generally 1 to 1.5 times the wing span length, or about 50 metres, behind the aircraft to measure the ambient atmospheric pressure (static pressure) precisely, in the “free-stream air-flow” outside the disrupted air-flow generated by the aircraft.

Take a look by yourself here.

Test campaign in full swing

The aircraft is currently undergoing a robust flight test campaign executed by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, California, after the first flight from Palmdale in November 2023 and the Low-Rate Initial Production contract in January 2024. Northrop Grumman added in the press release that the program is continuing to meet all DoD technical, schedule and affordability requirements on its path to operational capability.

Developed with the next generation of stealth technology, advanced networking capabilities and open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider will serve as the backbone of America’s bomber fleet, with 100 bombers on order to replace the B-2A Spirit and B-1B Lancer bombers. The B-21 might take an even bigger role in future, as the head of U.S. Strategic Command expressed interest in acquiring more than the planned 100 aircraft.

B-21 spotted
Another screenshot from the video posted on X by @FueledbyLOLZ

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


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