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Northrop Grumman B-21 enters low-rate initial production

The Northrop Grumman B-21, shrouded in secrecy. (Northrop Grumman)

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider has entered low-rate initial production (LRIP), according to a statement by the US Department of Defense's Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante.

“Production of the B-21 ‘Raider' stealth bomber is moving forward,” LaPlante said in a 22 January statement. “This past fall, based on the results of ground and flight tests and the team's mature plans for manufacturing, I gave the go-ahead to begin producing B-21s at a low rate.”

The US Air Force (USAF) told Janes that the B-21 had entered production, but declined to provide additional details, including the number of aircraft purchased or when the contract was signed, citing operational security concerns. Northrop Grumman previously disclosed that six B-21s were undergoing production at its Plant 42 factory, but when the next example is set to fly is publicly unknown.

A single B-21, formally designated the T-1 test article and known informally as Cerberus, is undergoing testing at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California. The aircraft first flew on 12 November 2023 and has conducted at least one additional flight to date, although the USAF declined to confirm the number of flights or detail test activities.

The B-21 is intended to replace the B-1 and B-2 as the USAF's primary large penetrating strike aircraft. The service intends to order at least 100 Raiders. The first operational B-21s are to be sent to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, where the operational training unit and first operational units are set to be based. Following aircraft are allocated to Whiteman AFB, Missouri; and Dyess AFB, Texas.

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