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AFA 2022: US Air Force nears unveiling of B-21 bomber

An artistʼs rendering of the B-21 Raider bomber. (Northrop Grumman)

The US Air Force (USAF) and Northrop Grumman, which have been developing the B-21 Raider mostly in secrecy for the past seven years, announced on 20 September that they plan to publicly unveil the stealth bomber during the first week of December.

The ceremony will take place at Northrop Grumman's aircraft plant in Palmdale, California, the company said. The event will reveal the first of six B-21 test aircraft that are in various stages of final assembly at the Palmdale facility.

‘‘The unveiling of the B-21 Raider will be a historic moment for our air force and the nation,'' USAF Chief of Staff General Charles Q Brown Jr said. ‘‘We last introduced a new bomber over 30 years ago.''

The announcement came during the Air & Space Forces Association's (AFA's) 2022 Air, Space, and Cyber Conference near Washington, DC.

The B-21's first flight is expected to occur in 2023, with the exact timing tied to how quickly ground tests proceed. The USAF plans to buy at least 100 B-21s to replace its ageing B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, both of which first flew in the 1980s.

The USAF is boosting funding for the B-21, as the programme ramps up its activity. The service's fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget request, which is pending in Congress, includes USD5 billion for the B-21, up from the enacted amount of USD3 billion in FY 2022.

The B-21 will be capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. It is scheduled to become operational in the mid-2020s.

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