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US Air Force B-21 Raider Stealth Strategic Bomber Continues Flight Test and Production

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US Air Force B-21 Raider Stealth Strategic Bomber Continues Flight Test and Production

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The B-21 Raider program is on track and continues flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility on Edwards Air Force Base, California. The B-21 will have an open architecture to integrate new technologies and respond to future threats across the spectrum of operations.
US Air Force B-21 Raider Stealth Strategic Bomber Continues Flight Test and Production

Following its formal unveiling, Dec. 2, 2022, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth strategic bomber began flight testing here where it continues to make progress toward becoming the backbone of the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet. On May 8, 2024, during testimony at the Senate Armed Services committee, Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, highlighted B-21 flight testing is on track to meet timelines and deliver to the warfighter. This is the first aircraft that is more digital than not, which contributes to the program meeting requirements.

“We are in the flight test program, the flight test program is proceeding well. It is doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is helping us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform, but in a very, very effective way,” said Hunter in response to a question about the B-21 program. When the B-21 enters the service, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, will be the first B-21 main operating base and location of the Formal Training Unit. Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, are the preferred locations for the remaining bases and will receive aircraft as they become available.

A B-21 Raider conducts flight tests, which includes ground testing, taxiing, and flying operations, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where it continues to make progress toward becoming the backbone of the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet.
A B-21 Raider conducts flight tests, which includes ground testing, taxiing, and flying operations, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where it continues to make progress toward becoming the backbone of the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 412th Test Wing)

The B-21 is a long-range, highly survivable, penetrating strike stealth bomber that will incrementally replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers and will play a major role supporting national security objectives and assuring U.S. allies and partners across the globe. The B-21 weapon system is manufactured under the Air Force’s contract with Northrop Grumman. It is designed with an open systems architecture, enabling rapid insertion of mature technologies, and allowing the aircraft to remain effective as threats evolve over time. The aircraft is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s with a production goal of a minimum of 100 aircraft.

The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office manages the acquisition program, focusing on making test aircraft as production representative as possible. Test aircraft are built on the same manufacturing line and use the same manning and tooling that will be used in the eventual production. The AFRCO’s strategy includes building test aircraft as production-representative as possible. Rather than a traditional flight prototype approach, B-21 test aircraft are built including mission systems using the same manufacturing processes and tooling for production aircraft. This approach in development laid the groundwork for production to start more quickly.

The B-21 Raider program is on track and continues flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility on Edwards Air Force Base, California. The B-21 will have an open architecture to integrate new technologies and respond to future threats across the spectrum of operations.
The B-21 Raider program is on track and continues flight testing at Northrop Grumman’s manufacturing facility on Edwards Air Force Base, California. The B-21 will have an open architecture to integrate new technologies and respond to future threats across the spectrum of operations. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 412th Test Wing)

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