The B-21 Raider begins flight tests

(To drafting)

After its official presentation on December 2, 2022, the B-21 Raider began flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, where it continues to make progress toward becoming the backbone of the United States Air Force's bomber fleet.

During an intervention atarmed services committee of the Senate, Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, highlighted that the flight tests of the B-21 are in line with the expected timing and that the aircraft will be delivered to the military by May 8.

"We are in the flight test phase, the program is progressing well," Hunter said in response to a question about the B-21 program. “It's doing what flight test programs are designed to do, which is help us learn about the unique characteristics of this platform.” Hunter explained that the first highly digitalized aircraft contributes to meeting the program requirements.

The B-21 is a bomber stealth long-range, highly survivable, deep-strike aircraft that will gradually replace the B-1 and B-2 and will play an important role in supporting national security objectives and reassuring U.S. allies and partners throughout the world.

The B-21 weapons system is manufactured, under U.S. Air Force contract, by Northrop Grumman. It is designed with an open systems architecture, which allows for the rapid insertion of new technologies and allows the aircraft to remain effective as threats evolve over time. The aircraft is expected to enter service in the mid-2020s with a production target of at least 100 aircraft.

L'Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office manages the acquisition program, focusing on making test aircraft as consistent as possible into final production. The test aircraft are built on the same production line and use the same personnel and tools that will be used in final production.

AFRCO's strategy includes building test aircraft that are as representative of the final product as possible. Instead of a traditional flight prototype approach, B-21 test aircraft are directly built with mission systems using the same processes as final production. This approach in development laid the foundation for starting a faster chain.

When the B-21 enters service, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, will be the B-21's first major operating base and home to the formal training unit. Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas, are the locations designated as follow-on bases and will receive the aircraft as they become available.

Source/photo: USAF