Test Aircraft in Flow

The B-21 Raider took center stage at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, with the latest update on program progress being delivered by newly appointed Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, during his State of the Forces address Monday morning.

B-21 Raider
Progress continues on the B-21 Raider with five test aircraft now in production at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California (Shown here is an artist rendering of the B-21 Raider)

«As I speak, there are now five test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 Raider 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 No. 1 priority», said Kendall, referring to Air and Space Forces’ ability to continuously deter and defeat threats.

Mr. Randall Walden, director of the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and Program Executive Officer of the B-21 Raider Program, had previously confirmed to Air Force Magazine in January that two test aircraft were making their way down the production line at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale. According to Doug Young, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman’s Strike Division, this significant progress can be credited to a strong customer partnership, early application of digital tools and a talented, dedicated workforce.

«We have a nationwide industry team who has shown tremendous dedication and grit over the past 18 months», Young said. «Combined with our extensive collaboration and transparency with our Air Force customer, and the success we’ve had in bringing digital tools into our design and production processes, the B-21 Raider program is leading the way in many respects».

The application of new digital tools and processes early in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase has been a focus of recently released information on the program. The use of augmented and virtual reality, and ground and airborne test beds have been recently cited as enablers of program progress and risk reduction.

«The integration of our digital design capabilities with our advanced manufacturing technologies means we’re working smarter and faster to bring next-generation technologies to life», said Chris Daughters, Aeronautics sector vice president of Engineering. «Our ability to continually reduce risk throughout EMD by utilizing these transformative digital capabilities is going to pay dividends throughout the full lifecycle of the aircraft».

When it comes to delivering a multilayered response to threats, the B-21 Raider will be both a symbol and source of America’s strength.

«With the capability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world, this weapon system is critical to our national security», said Young. «Northrop Grumman is committed to delivering the B-21 Raider to the warfighter on time to ensure America can project its power globally for decades to come».

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