The new B-21 Raider stealth bomber is making good progress and should fly in December 2021, USAF Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said July 24.
Wilson, speaking at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Washington, D.C., said the service continues to analyze its capacity for long-range strike. The Air Force still believes it is short, and is reviewing alternative force mixes.
Speaking on deterrence and the need to modernize the nuclear command, control, and communications network, Wilson said he was at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Melbourne, Fla. in the last few weeks, “looking at the B-21,” and said the company is “moving out on that pretty fast.” Wilson said he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight.”
That would put the first flight of the B-21 in December 2021. The Air Force has said from the beginning that the first B-21 would be a “useable asset” but has also said it doesn’t expect an initial operating capability with the B-21 before the “mid 2020s.”
Northrop Grumman CEO “Kathy Warden and her team are focused on software integration and making sure … we’ll have the software ready for the plane when it’s delivered,” Wilson said.
The Air Force is “focused on the development of the new bomber as well as modernizing the B-52,” with new engines and radar, “and we’re exploring the force structure between the B-1 the B-2 and the B-52,” Wilson noted. “The general consensus is, we don’t have enough long-range strike capacity, and that came out in ‘The Air Force We Need’” study the service published last September.
“We continue to look at what that force will be for the future across the bomber force, what mix it will be.” He maintained the service needs “at least 100” B-21s.” (end of excerpt)
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