The Department of the Air Force awarded $108 million to Northrop Grumman for advance procurement to support the B-21 Raider program. Advance procurement funds will directly support the acquisition of long lead items necessary to build the first lot of production B-21 aircraft. The award of advance procurement reaffirms the Air Force’s commitment to fielding what will become the backbone of the 21st century bomber fleet. The B-21 test aircraft currently being manufactured under the Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract with Northrop Grumman are being built on the same production line, using the same tooling, processes and technicians to build the production aircraft.
“The B-21 Raider program is foundational to the Air Force’s operational imperative for an effective, long-range strike family of systems to guarantee our ability to strike any target, anytime, anywhere, even in the most contested environment. As the Air Force celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Raider is a standout example of the innovation and pursuit of game-changing technology that has characterized our service since its inception. The quality of the aircraft build, coupled with its open systems architecture design and built-in margin for future growth, will provide our warfighters the competitive advantage we’ll need to deter current and future conflicts, and fight and win if called upon to do so,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.
The first B-21 flight test aircraft recently entered loads calibration to undergo verification and validation testing of its structural design prior to flight. After loads calibration, further integration and ground testing will inform the program schedule and flight readiness. Progress continues across all elements of the B-21 program. The fiscal year 2022 Defense Appropriations Act provided funding for five new military construction projects to stand-up the B-21 mission at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, the Raider’s first main operating base. Construction of a low observable maintenance hangar, the first of its kind on the 80-year-old conventional bomber base, is already underway. An environmental impact statement is set to begin this year to inform final decisions on the second and third main operating bases to bed-down the full B-21 fleet.
The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is an American heavy bomber under development for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Northrop Grumman. As part of the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program, it is to be an advanced, very long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber for the USAF, able to deliver conventional and thermonuclear weapons. As of 2021, the bomber was expected to enter service by 2026–27. It is to complement existing Rockwell B-1 Lancer, Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleets in U.S. service, and eventually replace these bombers. In May 2022, the Air Force announced that they expected first flight of the B-21 to take place in 2023.