The B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s next stealth bomber, will be unveiled to the public for the first time in early December, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said Tuesday.
Hunter, during a roundtable with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference, revealed the B-21′s rollout will take place sometime during the first week of December. Other details of the roll-out are still being finalized, he said.
It will be the first time the Air Force has unveiled a new bomber since the B-2 Spirit’s November 1988 debut at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. The B-2′s first flight took place in July 1989.
The new, Northrop Grumman-made bomber has so far only been glimpsed in concept art. Its first flight is expected to come sometime in 2023, a few months after the rollout. Northrop said in a release after Hunter’s announcement that the date of the first flight will be set based on the results of ground tests.
There are now six B-21 test aircraft being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale facility, the company said in the release.
Northrop said in May the first B-21 finished its first of a series of ground tests at Plant 42. That phase included loads calibration tests, meant to verify the bomber’s structural integrity by subjecting it to stress, among other tests.
The following phases of the B-21′s ground tests were to involve powering up the bomber and testing its subsystems, and applying coatings and paint, Northrop said in its May statement.
Before the B-21′s first flight from Plant 42 to Edwards Air Force Base in California, Northrop Grumman will carry out engine runs and low- and high-speed taxi tests. Formal flight tests for the bomber will take place at Edwards.
The Air Force originally hoped, as recently as 2019, that the B-21′s first flight would come in December 2021, but its schedule gradually slipped.
Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will be the B-21′s first main operating base, with Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas to follow.