USA USAF Artist Rendering B21 Bomber Air Force Official 640USAF's Raider later than planned

While the 420th Flight Test Squadron waits patiently at Edwards AFB (CA) for the arrival of their new Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider strategic stealth bomber, it is now expected that the first Raider will roll-out in early 2022 and will most probably fly in the middle of that year.

Initially, it was planned that the B-21 would make its first flight in December 2021. It now seems that this forecast was always the best-case scenario. It is expected that the Raiders first flight is only a short hop: about 22 miles (35 kilometers) northwest, across the Mojave Desert, from Northrop Grumman's facility, also known as Air Force Plant 42, in Palmdale (CA), to the 420th FLTS at Edwards AFB.

As of the beginning of January 2021, while the first Raider has not reached final assembly yet, the start of the construction of a second B-21 occured. On 14 January 2021, Lt. Gen. James C. Dawkins, Jr., deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, stated that the B-21 will be available for USAF operational service around 2026 or 2027.

To rule out any big surprises, Lockheed Martin's Cooperative Avionics Test Bed N35LX, affectively named CATB or CATBird, a highly modified Boeing 737-330 designed as an avionics flight testbed aircraft, is working out hardware and software kinks before transferring them to the B-21. In 2018, it was stated that the B-21 was experiencing thrust issues related to the bomber’s inlet and S-duct (or serpentine inlet). Thanks to basic changes to the B-21 design, these issues are now solved.

Although the USAF has backed-off from the first schedule revealed in July 2018 to fly the Raider for the first time in December 2021, the first aircraft still may emerge from Building 401 on Site 4 at Plant 42 in Palmdale, during the next twelve months.


Subscribe to Scramble

As a member you get access to all our
premium content and benefits learn more