The US Air Force’s (USAF) B-21 Raider stealth bomber is being built by Northrop Grumman at its facility in Palmdale, California, US.
The announcement was made by the USAF Acting Secretary Matthew Donovan on 16 September during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
The USAF’s B-2 Spirit bomber is also produced at the Palmdale facility.
Matthew Donovan also stated that the B-21 Raider will be tested at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California.
The USAF will reactivate the 420th Flight Test Squadron to support testing of the bomber.
Donovan said: “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.”
Northrop Grumman is building the B-21 to provide the USAF with the capability to penetrate air defences to deliver precision strikes.
The USAF has stated that the B-21 bomber programme is transitioning to manufacturing development of the first test aircraft.
In May last year, the service announced that the bomber will replace B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit aircraft at three bomber bases.
The B-21 will operate out of Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas.
In a statement, the USAF said: “These three bomber bases will continue their long heritage of equipping and supporting airforce Global Strike Command as they prepare for the arrival of the next-generation bomber.”
The first B-21 aircraft are expected to join the fleet in the mid-2020s. The USAF will continue to operate the existing bombers until it receives sufficient B-21s.
The advanced aircraft will provide range, payload, and survivability and support the airforce’s future strike and deterrent capabilities.