The US Air Force plans to unveil its new B-21 Raider bomber at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California facility during the first week of December.
The long-awaited unveiling was first revealed by Air Force acquisition executive Andrew Hunter at the Air, Space and Cyber conference in Maryland and later confirmed by Northrop Grumman.
The B-21 Raider unveiling will be a historic moment, providing an exclusive view of the B-21 aircraft, the company in charge of delivering the first six of the next-generation bombers said.
“The unveiling of the B-21 Raider will be a historic moment for our Air Force and the nation,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. “We last introduced a new bomber over 30 years ago. As we look to the threats posed by our pacing challenge; we must continue to rapidly modernize. The B-21 Raider will provide formidable combat capability across a range of operations in highly contested environments of the future.”
B-21 is set to undertake its first flight shortly after it is unveiled to the public for the first time during an invitation-only event. This is expected to take place sometime in 2023, eight years after Northrop was selected to develop the new bomber.
According to Northrop, six B-21 test aircraft are in various stages of final assembly in Palmdale, California. The company and the US Air Force confirmed that the B-21 first flight is projected for 2023, but the actual timing of first flight will be based on ground test outcomes.
The first B-21 flight test aircraft entered loads calibration earlier this year 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.
“The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a product of pioneering innovation and technological excellence,” said Doug Young, sector vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems.
“Northrop Grumman is proud of our partnership with the US Air Force as we deliver the B-21 Raider, a sixth-generation aircraft optimized for operations in highly contested environments,” said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems.
Designed to perform long range conventional and nuclear missions and to operate in high end threat environments, the B-21 will be a new component of the nuclear triad.
The strike stealth bomber will be capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It will be a component of a larger family of systems for conventional long range strike, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic attack, communication and other capabilities.
The US Air Force also planned to develop a wingman drone for the bomber, but those efforts were abandoned, with US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall telling Breaking Defense that “the idea of a similar range collaborative combat aircraft is not turning out to be cost effective.”