The B-21 Raider, the US Air Force’s new stealth bomber, is due to make its maiden flight only in 2022, revealed Randall Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in an interview with Air Force Magazine. Officially, the aircraft is scheduled to fly for the first time in December. The new aircraft is being developed by Northrop Grumman at its facilities at USAF’s Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, the same location where the B-2 was built.
According to Walden, the B-21 Raider has already begun to take shape and should be introduced within approximately a year. The director also revealed that a second bomber has started to be assembled and that it will be used for structural tests.
The USAF plans to have the new bomber around 2026 or 2027, replacing the B-1 Lancer and its older brother, Spirit. According to the 2018 budget, the Pentagon plans to order at least 100 aircraft at a total cost of $ 80 billion.
The B-21 should not be surprising in appearance. The USAF has already released renderings of the aircraft, which will again use the flying wing configuration, but with more efficient and simple solutions. The goal is to avoid the escalation of costs that made the B-2 the most expensive aircraft in history and which had only 21 units assembled. The Raider will use Pratt & Whitney engines and will be able to absorb new hardware and software technologies due to its modular architecture.
The USAF is also using a business jet to fly and test the systems that will equip the bomber. The testbed aircracft has been able to improve avionics, which should facilitate systems integration.
The stealth bomber program even had an unexpected help from the Spirit Aviation, responsible for supplying the aircraft’s aerostructures. The company, which also produces 737 MAX components, ended up relocating employees to the Northropo Grumman plane because of the period when the Boeing jet was grounded.
The race for the new stealth bombers has intensified in recent years with the advancement of Russian and Chinese programs. The two countries intend to have an aircraft of this type in the coming years, putting an end to the US hegemony in this field.