The 6th generation B-21 Raider stealth bomber continued its development program by carrying out the first taxi tests at Plant 42, in Palmdale, California, where it is manufactured by Northrop Grumman.
The information was confirmed by a USAF spokesperson to some outlets. “I can confirm the B-21 is conducting ground taxi activities. Rigorous testing is a critical step in the B-21 flight test program,” said the official.
“Extensive testing evaluates systems, components, and functionalities. This testing allows us to mitigate risks, optimize design, and enhance operational effectiveness,” added the spokesperson.
The B-21 was unveiled almost a year ago, but was only shown outside the production facility in September. In mid-year, Notthrop Grumman and the USAF said they had powered up the bomber for the first time, another milestone in the program.
The plan is for the Raider to perform its maiden flight by the end of the year after several postponements. The Air Force, however, has made it clear that the schedule can be modified as security assessments show that improvements or corrections are necessary.
After the first flights, the B-21 test aircraft will move to Edwards Air Force Base, where the development program will continue.
Northrop Grumman has five other bombers in different stages of production. The exact volume of aircraft the Air Force intends to order is not yet clear.
There are talks of at least 100 B-21s that will replace 43 B-1B Lancer and two dozen B-2 Spirit, the world’s first stealth bomber.
The B-21 will be the USAF’s primary nuclear weapons vector, complemented by the modernized B-52 with new engines and avionics.