Who doesn't like a good treasure hunt? No? Didn't think that there were going to be any objectors, and this treasure was an absolute joy, as the prize really was worth every moment of thought and effort that went into it. So without further ado, let us dive into the treasure-trove that is the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider. Like all good treasure stories, this began with an abstract map.
Now, you may ask yourself why is this weird patch with an eerie skull a map? Well, as a fellow aviation nerd said to me, "sometimes a cloak is just a cloak!" But this is not 'just a cloak, far from it.'
Now we have a seemingly child-like drawing of an aircraft, with unusual blue and black bars jutting from the leading and trailing edges. What a map. What an ACTIVE AND INACTIVE FLOW MAP! This was my first moment of realization that Northrop Grumman have thrown the kitchen sink at this aircraft technology wise. So armed with the map, I went into the world of aviation academia and lo what did I find? My cloak!
So not only did that eerie patch show that the B-21 has full active flow over leading and trailing edge, but it also has smart surfaces!
These smart surfaces, coupled with the active flow control, create a near 80% efficient laminar wing, which is leaps and bounds away from the normal 10 to 20% (At best) laminar flow of most aircraft flying today! As you can see, this is quite the treasure trove indeed and it started a long, long time ago (2000 and onward to be precise).
Having started my deep dive, HAWSTOL effort smacked me in the face with a sudden realization.
HAWSTOL seen through an IR sensor would look very much as this patch...
Craziness abounded then as the hunt carried on, as snippets of internet chatter kept on repeating that the B-21 aerodynamics people kept butting heads against the low observable team... Then the reveal night I was stunned...
That massive gulping intake, the 'Bat Plane' comments, all made sense if this airframe has a three stream powerplant. People argued there wasn't one available, but as ever? Evidence says otherwise and this comment is directly from GE propulsion management.
As ever though, the proof is indeed in the pudding, and here is the wing.
Leading edge, wingtip, those sleek trailing edges, all present and correct to produce an aircraft with unmatched command of the skies. "But why is it white" people asked me, well, this one harks back to the RQ-180 P-ISR, and Northrop Grumman's astounding advance in ceramic-based heat transfer technology (Start working from University sources and follow the trail. It is available if you search hard enough and match patents with researchers and University staffers) Gone are the days where fuel was used as a heat-sink, as now the ceramics are capable of taking all the heat from the mission systems, and diffusing it into the slipstream of the aircraft itself in a manner that is 3 or 4 generations ahead of what is flying today expect onboard the P-ISR itself). It also helps that this ceramic is astoundingly good at absorbing low-frequency radar waves. A two-in-one win! Then... Well, I hit the treasure trove online.
No more words needed. A simple treasure map leads to the gold that was hidden inside a very obscure but public aviation forum for professional pilots.
*DISCLAIMER: ALL MATERIALS CONTAINED WITHIN ARE FROM PUBLICLY AVAILABLE SOURCES THAT ANY ENQUIRING MIND WOULD BE FREE TO FIND IF THEY WERE SO INCLINED.*