B-21 Raider Takes First Flight

The stealth bomber is officially in flight testing, the Air Force confirms.

Northrop Grumman’s B-21 [Courtesy: Northrop Grumman]

The U.S. Air Force’s top-secret B-21 Raider stealth bomber has conducted its first flight.

The stealth bomber, which was unveiled by Northrop Grumman to the public in December and confirmed by the service to be undergoing taxi testing last month, had long been projected to make its first flight by the end of the year. That met deadline was confirmed Friday when freelance journalist Matt Hartman posted a video of an aloft B-21 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Air Force officials confirmed the bomber is in flight testing.

"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," Ann Stefanek, Air Force spokesperson, said in a statement.

Northrop Grumman is manufacturing six test aircraft, according to the service.

Edwards Air Force Base, California, will lead testing and evaluation of the B-21. That includes ground testing, taxiing, and flight operations, the Air Force said.

Designed to carry out long-range conventional and nuclear missions, the B-21 is set to eventually replace aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit fleets. It is scheduled to hit full operational status in the mid-2020s.

Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, has been designated the first main operating base for the B-21 and  the B-21 formal training unit. Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, are both slated to receive aircraft as they become available, pending environmental approval. Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, will coordinate B-21 maintenance and sustainment.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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