WATCH: B-21 Raider Makes Public Debut

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after the conclusion of the B-21 unveiling ceremony.

PALMDALE, Calif.—The Air Force and Northrop Grumman rolled out the service’s first new bomber in 34 years on Dec. 2—the B-21 Raider .

In an eagerly awaited ceremony at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., the B-21 made its public debut after seven years of development behind the scenes and only a few artists’ renderings. 

The invitation-only event included Air Force and political dignitaries and a limited number of media representatives. Photography was permitted, but the Air Force restricted the size of lenses photographers could use, and viewing of the aircraft was limited to one section of the facility. 

A video replay of the event can be viewed below:

Alternatively, the ceremony can be viewed on YouTube.

The rollout is the first for a new Air Force bomber since 1988, when the B-2 Spirit emerged from the same facility. 

Northrop Grumman has teased a few details about the secretive aircraft, describing complementary elements of the B-21 “family of systems”; confirming a “digital twin” version of the aircraft; and, in a break with previous programs, eliminating the “block upgrade” approach to modernization. 

While the public got its first glimpse of the B-21 on Dec. 2, a first flight for the aircraft is still several months away, with the most recent timeline projecting a date of mid-2023. 

The Air Force tentatively plans to buy as many as 145 B-21s in time. Over the next five years, the service plans to spend nearly $20 billion on the program, and another $12 billion on research and development for the program during that same period, for a total of $32 billion.

The B-21 will succeed the B-1B and B-2 bombers now in service, but the exact dates of those turnovers has been walked back in recent years. Three years ago, the plan was for the B-2 and B-1 to retire in 2031 and 2032, respectively. But officials have said those dates depend on progress with the B-21 and have pledged that the existing bombers will not retire until they “shake hands” with the B-21s that replace them.