USAF Reveals It Has Five New B-21 Strat Bombers in Production, Not Two as Originally Reported
© Photo : US Air ForceUS Air Force rendering of B-21 stealth bomber.
© Photo : US Air Force
The Air Force envisions the B-21 as its do-it-all long-range, next-gen stealth bomber, designed to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. B-21s are expected to start replacing the US’s aging fleets of B-1B and B-2 bombers after becoming operational in the mid-2020s. The Air Force wants up to 200 of the $631 million apiece planes in total.
Defence contractor Northrop Grumman is building five new B-21 Raidar strategic bombers at its Palmdale, California plant, and not two, as originally reported, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall has revealed.
“We have been living off of bomber fleet investments made many decades ago, but that is rapidly changing,” Kendall said, speaking at the Palmdale plant on Monday, his remarks cited by DefenseNews.
“As I speak there are now five test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 production line at Air Force Plant 42,” he said. “You will never hear me make optimistic predictions about programmes. All programmes have risk and the same is true of the B-21, but at this point at least, the programme is making good progress to real fielded capacity,” the commander added.
Northrop Grumman has kept mum on when it expects to conduct the first test flight of the B-21, with the USAF expecting the bomber to enter into service sometime between 2025 and 2027. Service officials have previously indicated that the aircraft may make its debut flight in 2022.
Construction of the first two B-21s was reportedly completed earlier this year, but the military has yet to publish photos or videos of the aircraft –instead releasing computer generated renderings.
9 June 2021, 22:54 GMT
B-21s are expected to eventually replace the Air Force’s fleets of aging Boeing B-1B Lancers and Northrop B-2 Spirit bombers.
The service mothballed 17 of its 62 B-1B bomber fleet earlier this year amid shortages of parts and other issues. The US continues to use them in flights near China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, simulating bombing runs and testing regional air defences.
At a price tag of up to $2.1 billion apiece in 1997 dollars, the B-2 is the most expensive bomber aircraft ever produced. Designed during the Cold War for covert strikes into the Soviet Union, the programme received heavy criticism for its exorbitant costs throughout the 1990s. The bomber was used to bomb Serbian forces in the Kosovo War in 1999, and later, in US aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. None of these nations had air defences capable of shooting the bombers down, leading to questions about their deployment. However, B-2s are mostly flown around to drum up patriotism during sporting events such as the Super Bowl.