B-21 Raider, the USAF’s new bomber… and its much anticipated first flight

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan announced in September that the B-21 Raider is being produced in Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California, facility – the same location as the B-2 Spirit. In addition, the 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, will be reactivated to support testing of the B-21 Raider, as it did for the B-2. However,  it seems that the maiden flight of the new bomber will a short one, covering a relatively small distance.

While speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Donovan remarked on the Air Force’s B-21 program noting, “the development of the B-21 Raider is on schedule and the first test aircraft is under production at the same production facility in Palmdale, California, as its predecessor, the B-2. The first flight of the Raider will take it from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, where the legacy of excellence will continue with the reactivation of the 420th Flight Test Squadron.”

The B-21  is touted as a highly survivable, next-generation bomber with the ability to penetrate modern air defenses and hold any target at risk globally. The program has a mature and stable design and is transitioning to manufacturing development of the first test aircraft in Palmdale. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office along with the 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB will ensure delivery of this asymmetric capability to the warfighter at the preferred main operating base locations of Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas. These three bomber bases will continue their long heritage of equipping and supporting Air Force Global Strike Command as they prepare for the arrival of the next generation bomber.

The Air Force continuously evaluates the B-21 program 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.

However, it should be noted that unit purchase costs will again be very high. It won’t go up to the equivalent cost ($ 737 million Fly-away!) for the B-2, but it will exceed $ half a billion …

So even under the best of circumstances, the number of 100 units that the USAF plans to acquire and join the Global Strike Command seems to be rather exaggerated.