PALMDALE, California: Reuters reported that this week, the U.S. Air Force's B-21 "Raider" bomber made its maiden flight at the Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.
Built by Northrop Grumman and developed under strict security, the wing-shaped stealth bomber has a long operating range and is nuclear-capable.
Carrying the same "flying wing" shape of its predecessor, the B-2, the B-21 can deliver both conventional and nuclear weapons around the world using long-range and mid-air refueling capabilities.
It is projected to cost some US$550 million each at 2010 prices, or around $750 million today when adjusted for inflation. The U.S. Air Force plans to buy at least 100 of the new planes.
Ann Stefanek, US Air Force spokesperson said, "The B-21 Raider is in flight testing. Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wings B-21 Combined Test Force."
Beating a team comprising Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Northrop won the contract to make the bomber in 2015. Engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems, and Spirit Aerosystems are among the more than 400 suppliers in 40 states.
The B-21 was publicly unveiled in December 2022, and Northrop is calling the plane a sixth- generation aircraft, as it can connect to other aircraft and integrate future weapons into its systems.
It is also made of a more durable, stealth-enabling, low-observable surface material, requiring less maintenance and decreasing operational costs.