B-21 Raider maiden flight delayed ‘by a few months’

Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider

The first flight of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider strategic bomber will now happen several months later than anticipated, the US Air Force has said. 

The schedule, used by USAF to manage the development of the aircraft, slipped “by a few months,” according to the service. 

“It’s still within the baseline [schedule] that we originally had for the program,” USAF Secretary Frank Kendall claimed at the McAleese & Associates conference on March 15, 2023, as quoted by Defense News. 

The USAF still intends to conduct the maiden flight of the B-21 by the end of 2023 and is within the baseline for cost, schedule and performance, Defense News added, referring to USAF. 

Long-awaited capabilities

The B-21 was unveiled in December 2022. It is set to become the main strategic bomber for the USAF, replacing the B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer. 

For some time, the USAF has been stressing the importance of the capabilities provided by the B-21, particularly in the standoff which continues in Southeast Asia. 

Eight prototypes are currently in various stages of manufacturing and testing, and the recently-published USAF budget proposal shows a dramatic increase in funding of the program for 2024. 

Various officials have hinted at plans for between 100 and 150 bombers to be purchased. With an estimated price of over $700 million per plane, the program is expected to become the second-largest procurement effort in the US history, after the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet. 

However, unlike the F-35, the development of the B-21 has gone relatively smoothly. According to the USAF, the program stayed under budget, with Northrop Grumman never exceeding the $25.1 billion allocated for the development. 

However, the program has also seen significant delays. Originally the maiden flight of the aircraft was scheduled for 2021, before being delayed to 2022 and then 2023. 

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