Air Force Confirms B-21 Flight Testing Underway at Edwards AFB

BY AUDREY DECKER, Staff Writer Defense One

B-21 Raider. Image – USAF

The B-21 Raider flew a test sortie from Edwards Air Force Base on Wednesday, marking another milestone in the development of the Pentagon’s new stealth bomber.

This is the second publicly acknowledged flight for the bomber, which had its first flight in November from Palmdale, California, to Edwards. The aircraft is one of six test aircraft being built by Northrop Grumman.

“I can confirm the B-21 flew” on Jan. 17, an Air Force spokesperson said. “Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wing’s B-21 Combined Test Force to provide survivable, long-range, penetrating strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners.”

The service declined to say if this was the first test sortie the bomber flew out of Edwards.

“We are not providing further details related to the test program to include the number of flights the aircraft has flown,” the spokesperson said.

The 420th Test Wing at Edwards, which tested the B-2 Spirit, was reactivated in 2019 in preparation for the Raider.

Northrop, which will hold its fourth-quarter company earnings call next week, has said that it expects to receive a low-rate initial production contract for the Raider program after the first flight and before the end of the fourth quarter.

The program aims to deliver the first operational B-21s in the “mid-2020s.” Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, is to be the plane’s first main operating base.

“Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas (pending the Environmental Impact Statement) will receive aircraft as they become available. Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, will coordinate maintenance and sustainment of the B-21, and Edwards AFB, California, will lead testing and evaluation of the aircraft,” service officials said in November.

The Air Force is rebuilding its plans for Indo-Pacific operations around the B-21, which officials say is a crucial platform in a potential fight against China and will replace most of the service’s nuclear delivery weapons, including its ICBMs. The service plans to buy at least 100 to replace its bomber fleet.

 

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