The development of the B-21 Raider, the US Air Force’s new bomber and the most advanced aircraft ever known, was authorized for production by the Pentagon.
The statement came from the Undersecretary of the Department of Defense, William LaPlante in a statement on January 22.
“Production of the B-21 stealth bomber is moving forward,” said LaPlante. “This past fall, based on the results of ground and flight tests and the team’s mature plans for manufacturing, I gave the go-ahead to begin producing B- 21s.”
The approval came shortly after the inaugural flight of the flying-wing stealth bomber, on November 10.
Northrop Grumman has at least six aircraft in different stages of assembly at Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, which are not considered prototypes or pre-production examples.
One of these B-21s was moved to Edwards Air Force Base and made the aircraft’s second known flight there, on January 17.
The Air Force highlighted that the B-21 program follows a different concept, in which the planes are already produced with mission systems and production processes for serial units, which will accelerate entry into service.
B-1B and B-2 replacement
The new bomber is expected to cost much less than its predecessors, but the Department of Defense has not yet released details of the contract or the values agreed with Northrop Grumman.
“As shared by the U.S. Air Force, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider has entered low-rate initial production. Our team received the contract award after B-21 entered flight testing within the program baseline schedule. Our production representative test aircraft indicated readiness for production, achieving all flight performance and data requirements,” Northrop Grumman later said.
It is expected that the B-21 Raider will enter service in the mid-2020s and that the USAF will order at least 100 aircraft. The aircraft will replace the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit, the USAF’s first stealth bomber.