The B-21 Raider stealth strategic bomber has had its first flight delayed to 2023, the US Air Force (USAF) told Air Force Magazine.
Northrop Grumman aircraft was supposed to make the maiden flight this year, but now the USAF is only expected to roll-out the aircraft in the next few months, as the first prototype will have to perform tests outside the hangars soon.
“Recently, the Air Force released a new estimate for first flight; projected for next year, 2023,” a spokesperson told the magazine.
The B-21 program is one of the most ambitious of the Pentagon, which plans to replace the B-1B and B-2 bombers with an advanced aircraft that repeats the Spirit’s flying wing shape, but with greater ability to go undetected by radars and sensors.
The Raider is also expected to have a much lower unit price than the B-2 – the USAF expects to produce around 145 aircraft in the next few years.
The reason for the new delay was not given by the service, however, it is believed that it may have to do with the disruption of the production chain that affects the aerospace industry after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The delay would have made the USAF plan to postpone the retirement of the B-1B and B-2, which were scheduled to leave service between 2031 and 2032. There are currently six test aircraft in different stages of production at Plant 42, in Palmdale, California.
The Air Force intends to invest about $32 billion in the B-21 program, between production and research and development.