B-21 stealth bomber to finally be revealed in coming months

The B-21's predecessor, the B-2 bomber
The B-21's predecessor, the B-2 bomber

The B-21 Raider stealth bomber will be finally unveiled to the public later this year, a US senator has said following a classified visit to the programme production facility.

Senator Mike Rounds visited the aircraft’s production site in Palmdale, California as part of a classified visit on 15th July.

Rounds also confirmed the B-21 is still on track for a first flight in 2023.

"While much of the information I received on my visit is classified, I am pleased to report the B-21 is on time and on budget," Rounds said on Twitter. "The public can expect the B-21 to be revealed later this year."

While only image renders have been released so far, it has been reported via a spokesman for Rounds that an image of the real B-21 Raider aircraft should be coming soon.

The US Air Force is currently accelerating production of the B-21, prime contractor Northrop Grumman announced in May.

Northrop Grumman president and CEO, Kathy Warden, said on a quarterly earnings “the government is looking at layering” production of the bomber “on top of” its development phase.

The B-2 stealth bomber was publicly rolled out in 1988 at USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, California
The B-2 stealth bomber was publicly rolled out in 1988 at USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, California

B-21 production rates are classified, but Warden confirmed the programme has been successful enough that a $67m performance incentive fee has been added for meeting an unnamed target in the first quarter.

David Keffer, Northop Grumman’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, also said that full-rate production costs “have yet to be negotiated,” shielding the programme from inflationary problems with fixed-price contracts.

Low rate initial production will begin in 2023, Keffer stated, and run in parallel with the engineering and manufacturing development phase “for a period of time.”

Six aircraft are currently in production at USAF's Plant 42 facility in Palmdale, California, as part of the programme’s engineering and manufacturing development phase.

Doug Young, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s strike division, says significant progress on the B-21 can be credited to a strong customer partnership, early application of digital tools and a talented workforce.

“We have a nationwide industry team who has shown tremendous dedication and grit over the past 18 months,” Young said. “Combined with our extensive collaboration and transparency with our Air Force customer, and the success we’ve had in bringing digital tools into our design and production processes, the B-21 program is leading the way in many respects.”

The use of augmented and virtual reality, and ground and airborne test beds have been recently cited as enablers of programme progress and risk reduction.

“The integration of our digital design capabilities with our advanced manufacturing technologies means we’re working smarter and faster to bring next-generation technologies to life,” said Chris Daughters, aeronautics sector vice president of engineering at Northrop Grumman. “Our ability to continually reduce risk throughout EMD by utilising these transformative digital capabilities is going to pay dividends throughout the full lifecycle of the aircraft.”


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