Northrop Grumman has been awarded $108m in advance procurement funds for the acquisition of long lead production items for the US Air Force’s (USAF) B-21 Raider programme.

Awarded by the US Department of Air Force (DAF), the funds will support the production of the first batch of B-21 stealth bomber aircraft.

USAF chief of staff general CQ Brown said: “The B-21 Raider programme is foundational to the Air Force’s operational imperative for an effective, long-range strike family of systems to guarantee our ability to strike any target, anytime, anywhere, even in the most contested environment.

“The quality of the aircraft build, coupled with its open systems architecture design and built-in margin for future growth, will provide our warfighters the competitive advantage we’ll need to deter current and future conflicts, and fight and win if called upon to do so.”

Currently, the company is developing the B-21 test aircraft using the same process, tooling and technicians required to build a production aircraft.

The first B-21 test aircraft has already entered the loads calibration phase, where it will undergo structural design validation before taking its first flight.

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Following the loads calibration phase, the test aircraft will go through ground testing and integration.

According to the USAF, the funds have been provided by the Defense Appropriations Act for the fiscal year 2022, for five new military construction projects to support the B-21 programme.

In addition, an environmental impact statement will also commence this year to announce decisions on the second and third main operating bases for the B-21 fleet.

Preferred locations by USAF include Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri and Dyess AFB in Texas.

Besides, construction is underway on a low observable maintenance hangar on the 80-year-old conventional bomber base.

In October 2015, the USAF awarded an engineering, manufacturing and development contract to Northrop Grumman for the B-21 bomber fleet of aircraft.

In 2019, the USAF completed the strategic basing process and announced preferred operating locations for B-21 aircraft.