To support its B-21 Raider program, the Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman $108 million in advance procurement funds to acquire long-lead items, the service announced this week.
Five test bombers are being manufactured in Northrop’s Palmdale, CA, production facility. The first aircraft entered loads calibration for verification and validation testing of its structural design, the news release stated, and will undergo further integration and ground testing prior to flight.
“The B-21 test aircraft are the most production-representative aircraft, both structurally and in its mission systems, at this point in a program, that I’ve observed in my career,” said Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office Director Randall Walden. “The right decisions are being made on this program to pave the way for a high-fidelity flight test campaign and an effective transition to production.”
In its fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, the Air Force is seeking $1.7 billion for procurement of the B-21s as they enter low-rate initial production. The service plans to buy a minimum of 100 bombers, Maj. Gen. James Peccia, deputy assistant secretary for budget, said last month.