The B-21 stealth bomber took off from the factory in California and moved to Edwards base to prepare for the test flight phase.
America’s first B-21 Raider stealth bomber took off from the runway at Factory No. 42 of Northrop Grumman Corporation in Palmdale, California, on the morning of November 10 and landed at Edwards Air Force Base about an hour later.
The aircraft flew with its landing gear down, a rule that usually applies on the first flight of any aircraft, and was escorted by an F-16 fighter. The B-21 Raider carries many sensors, including an anchor chain and an air sensor pulled behind the tail.
“The B-21 Raider series is entering the flight test phase. This is an important step in the testing process to provide a long-range aircraft capable of surviving and attacking deep into enemy territory to deter, threaten, and prevent aggressive actions against the United States, its allies and partners,” said US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
The first flight of the B-21 series has been awaited for many years. The project was continuously delayed due to many reasons, including the impact of Covid-19. The plane started in July and began ground engine testing two months later.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is building at least five B-21s, which will also be transferred to the Edwards base to establish a specialized testing unit.
The B-21 Raider, also nicknamed “stealth assassin,” is the first bomber model launched by the US since the 1980s, when the B-2 Spirit line was put into service. The manufacturer claims this is “the world’s first true 6th generation stealth bomber”.
Although its features have not been revealed much, the B-21 is likely to be integrated with advanced stealth technology, long-range operations, carry many weapons and may have automation capabilities. In addition to carrying many bombs and ammunition, it is said to be a smart bomber in terms of sensors, connection networks and data fusion capabilities, along with the ability to launch electronic warfare and reconnaissance.
The US Air Force plans to order about 100 B-21 aircraft to replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit strategic bombers in the coming decades. Each B-21 has a factory price of nearly 700 million USD, not including research and production costs, while the entire project is worth about 203 billion USD.