The US Air Force (USAF) already has five B-21 Raider stealth bombers in production at Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., Secretary Frank Kendall said during a Monday conference.
The amount is much higher than previously reported, when mentioning two planes being assembled by Northrop Grumman in the restricted facilities of the Air Force.
“As I speak there are now 5 test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 production line at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. This investment in meaningful military capabilities that project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world addresses my number one priority,” Kendall told the audience.
The B-21 Raider is a new generation of strategic bomber with stealth capability. Like the B-2, also developed by Northrop Grumman, the aircraft uses the flying wing shape.
But the USAF didn’t disclose much information about the project, apart from sharing some artistic impressions with different characteristics between them.
What is known is that the B-21 will be a more versatile and cheaper subsonic jet than the B-2, the most expensive aircraft in history. The Air Force must acquire at least 100 planes that will replace not only the Spirit bombers but the B-1B as well – the B-52 veterans, on the other hand, will remain in service after modernization.
The first operational squadron of the B-21 will be located at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, as well as Dyess AFB, Texas, and Whiteman AFB, Missouri, where the B-2s are today.
After program delays, the Air Force expects to launch the B-21 Raider’s maiden flight in 2022. The test aircraft will then proceed to Edwards Air Force Base for a lengthy evaluation period prior to entry into service, scheduled for the middle of this decade.