Northrop Grumman has successfully powered on the first flight-test aircraft of the highly anticipated B-21 Raider strategic bomber.
The event was announced by President and CEO Kathy Warden during the company’s earnings call for the second quarter of 2023.
“On B-21, we successfully powered on the first flight-test aircraft in the quarter,” Warden said during the call, defining it as “another important milestone in our campaign to achieve first flight and transition into production”.
A ‘power on’ indicates the moment when the aircraft’s electrical power systems are activated for the first time. During the power on, engineers and technicians conduct tests to ensure that all electrical systems are functioning correctly, and they may also check for any potential issues or malfunctions.
Powering up the flight-test aircraft represents a crucial phase ahead of the maiden flight, scheduled to take place before the end of 2023.
Six B-21 bombers are being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California. Warden highlighted new manufacturing techniques such as the use of a digital thread to improve labor efficiency within the program.
The B-21 is expected to enter service by 2026, gradually replacing the B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer strategic bombers. Unveiled by Northrop Grumman on December 2, 2022, this new strategic bomber reuses some of the B-2’s general characteristics, with a similar sleek flying wing design.
Ultimately, the USAF expects to operate a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. It intends to order 100 B-21s, more than its current fleet of B-1s and B-2s combined.