The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber’s first flight will be a short hop, about 22mi (35km) north across the Mojave Desert, from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California where it is being built to its testing site at Edwards Air Force Base.
The US Air Force’s next generation bomber is being built at the same Northrop Grumman facility as its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, says acting secretary of the air force Matthew Donovan at the 2019 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on 16 September.
Development of the flying wing aircraft remains on schedule, says Donovan. The programme has a mature and stable design. It is transitioning to manufacturing development of the first test aircraft, says the USAF.
In August, the service said that the B-21 was within its budget. It also has said previously that the aircraft would make its first flight in December 2021.
The 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB will be reactivated to support testing of the B-21 Raider, as it was for the B-2, says Donovan.
Beyond small recent disclosures, the USAF has shared precious few details about the B-21’s development. The aircraft is a top secret priority for the service as it is intended to have the ability to stealthily penetrate any modern air defence in the world.
Perhaps conscious of how little it has disclosed about the B-21, the USAF noted in its recent first flight announcement that it “continuously evaluates the B-21 programme security posture with input from the intelligence community and is committed to maximizing transparency of key program information while balancing the need to protect vital technologies and capabilities from adversary exploitation.”