The maiden flight of the first Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber (LRSB) will not occur earlier than 2023.  

No reason was given for the delay, first revealed by a U.S. Air Force spokesperson to Air Force Magazine. The upcoming strategic bomber was previously expected to take to the skies in late 2021, before being postponed to 2022. 

“The B-21 program continues to ensure the first flight test aircraft is a high-quality build and production-representative, in order to drive an efficient flight test campaign and rapidly field this critical combat capability,” the spokesperson told Air Force Magazine. 

The maiden flight of the first Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider long range strike bomber (LRSB) is expected to take place no earlier than 2022. Once it enters production, its acquisition by the United States Air Force (USAF) could be accelerated to speed up the B-1 and B-2 retirement.

Six B-21 bombers are reportedly being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California. One was rolled out of the assembly line in mid-March 2022 and entered the ground test phase

The B-21 is expected to enter service by 2026, incrementally replacing the B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer strategic bombers. The USAF eventually expects to operate a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. It intends to order 100 of the strategic bomber, which is more than the fleet of B-1s and B-2s combined. 

While the exact capabilities of the aircraft are still unknown, it is expected to be smaller and lighter than the B-2, as reflected by a lower price per unit. In 2010, the USAF revealed it expected a cost of $670 million per B-21, against $1.250 billion for the B-2 [prices adjusted to 2020].