The American company Northrop Grumman, one of the main defense contractors in the world, revealed yesterday that, together with the United States Air Force, it will present the B-21 Raider long-range attack bomber, that has only been seen so far in conceptual recreations, during the first week of December at the company’s facility in Palmdale, California.
“The B-21 is the most advanced military aircraft ever built and is a pioneer for its innovation and technological excellence,” said Doug Young, industry vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “The Raider showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people who work every day to deliver this aircraft.”
Since the award of the contract in 2015, The company has assembled a nationwide team to design, test and build the world’s most advanced strike aircraft. “The B-21 is Northrop Grumman’s pioneering digital engineering and advanced manufacturing techniques coupled with revolutionary stealth technology,” the company explains.
“Northrop Grumman is proud of our partnership with the US Air Force in delivering the B-21 Raider, a sixth-generation aircraft optimized for operations in highly contested environments”said Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. .
Six B-21 test aircraft are in various stages of final assembly in Palmdale. Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force confirmed that they expect its first flight to take place sometime in 2023, a few months after launch. The company said in a statement following Hunter’s announcement that the date of the first flight will be set based on the results of ground tests.
Launch week coincides with the Reagan National Defense Forum, when dozens of top military officials are already in California, about an hour from Palmdale.
“We’re delivering our product on the time frame we anticipated and we’re on the schedule our customer promised Congress,” Jones said.
It will be the first time the Air Force has unveiled a new bomber since the debut of the B-2 Spirit in November 1988, which first flew in July 1989.
The first and most critical payload calibration test of the strike bomber was successfully completed early last May. This test was one of the three main conditions that this aircraft is subjected to in this phase of ground testing on the way to its first flight.
The load calibration, whose objective is to adjust the instrumentation before the flight and verify the structural integrity, yielded positive and consistent results. During testing, the B-21’s fuselage endured varying percentages of stress to ensure the aircraft could continue on its path to flight readiness.
In the rest of the ground tests, the team has powered up the aircraft, tested its subsystems and applied coatings and paint. The next steps will include performing engine tests, as well as low and high speed taxi tests, and then first flight.
Since the first day, Northrop Grumman worked proactively to minimize production risk. Throughout the engineering, manufacturing and development phase, the company has emphasized risk reduction efforts. According to the risk-based approach, the successful calibration test was an important milestone that further validated the effectiveness of the company’s digital design capabilities and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Randy Walden, director of the Office of Rapid Capabilities at the Department of the Air Force and executive director of the B-21 Raider program, recently said that “The B-21 test aircraft is the most representative production aircraft, both in its structure and its systems at this point in a program that I have observed in my career”.
Before the first flight of the B-21 from Plant 42 to Edwards Air Force Base in California, Northrop Grumman will carry out engine and taxi tests at low and high speed. Formal flight testing of the bomber will take place at Edwards.
The Air Force originally expected, as early as 2019, that the first flight of the B-21 would take place in December 2021, but its schedule was pushed back.
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, will be the first major operating base for the B-21, followed by Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base, in Texas.