Northrop Grumman has been approved to commence low-rate production of its highly anticipated B-21 Raider stealth bomber.
The B-21 Raider made its maiden flight in November 2023, a crucial step that led to Northrop Grumman securing the contract for the initial production of the stealth bomber.
The announcement came from William LaPlante, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, who said that production plans were mature and grounded on successful ground and flight tests.
“This past fall, based on the results of ground and flight tests and the team’s mature plans for manufacturing, I gave the go-ahead to begin producing B-21s at a low rate,” Under Secretary LaPlante said in a statement to Air & Space Forces Magazine.
The next-generation strategic bomber
This advanced aircraft is designed to enhance the USAF’s strategic capabilities and serve as a key component in the nation’s defense arsenal.
With production now underway, the B-21 Raider is expected to enter active service by 2026. It is anticipated to gradually replace the aging B-2 Spirit and the B-1 Lancer strategic bombers, which have been crucial assets in the USAF’s long-range strike capabilities for decades.
The USAF envisions operating a two-bomber fleet, comprising the B-21 Raider and the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft, currently undergoing a modernization campaign. The order for 100 B-21 Raiders surpasses the combined number of B-1s and B-2s currently in operation.