What’s Your Guess About The Operating Altitude Of The B-21?
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What’s your guess about the operating altitude of the B-21?
Defense Editor Steve Trimble responds:
The U.S. Air Force disclosed here that future B-21 pilots are not expected to use low-altitude training routes. This statement correlates with a casual analysis of the released renderings of the B-21, which reveal a trailing edge optimized for high-altitude operations.
How high? The available evidence does not give us any specific clues, but some basic assumptions are possible. As Aviation Week noted on the eve of the B-21 contract award announcement in 2015, the answer is likely somewhere between the 50,000-ft. ceiling of the B-52 and the roughly 70,000-ft. operating altitude of the U-2.
“High altitude is one of the few ways to reduce the chance of visual detection—an observer in a fighter at 30,000-40,000 ft. is looking up against a dark sky, not outward against a backlit horizon,” Aviation Week reported in August 2015. “Even a usable 55,000-60,000-ft. cruise altitude (like the Royal Air Force’s Vulcan and Victor) could be an advantage.”