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B-21 bomber the first sixth generation aircraft

F-22Raptor

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WASHINGTON — The Dec. 2 rollout of the B-21 Raider will mark the world’s first glimpse at a bomber that manufacturer Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force see as a generational leap in aircraft technology and development.

The B-21 — the Air Force’s first new bomber in more than three decades — will be advanced enough to qualify as a sixth-generation aircraft, Tom Jones, president of Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Systems unit, said in a Nov. 22 interview with Defense News.

The technology used in the B-21′s testing — and the Air Force’s decision to conduct its flight tests with a production-representative aircraft instead of an experimental model — could provide a path forward for more rapid, less risky aircraft acquisitions in the future, Jones added.

He explained that the B-21′s advancements in stealth capabilities, use of open-systems architecture, and inclusion of Joint All-Domain Command and Control technologies to share data across platforms will make it “the first of the sixth-gen systems.” JADC2 is the Pentagon’s effort to connect sensors to shooters across domains of warfare.

The debut of this B-21 — numbered 001 and referred to as T1, for the first flight test aircraft — at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, will mark the beginning of a major phase in the bomber’s development. Since the spring, Northrop Grumman has continued with the first bomber’s testing, final assembly, and application of coatings and paint to get it ready for the public.

Jones said that over the next few months, the first B-21 will undergo additional testing to ensure it’s ready for its first flight. That’s to include powering systems on and off, running its engines, performing taxiing test runs, and other standard integration tests.

The first flight of the B-21 will be to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where further flight tests will take place. The date of that flight is not yet scheduled; Northrop said a date will be based on the results of the ground tests but does expect it to take place sometime in 2023, a few months after the rollout.

Jones hopes the B-21 model of using a production representative aircraft — one that is essentially identical to the eventual production aircraft — for test flights will pave the way for faster acquisitions in the future.

In an October announcement about the B-21 rollout, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter touted the Air Force’s decision early on to make the flight-test aircraft production representative, saying that it “is paying dividends as we look towards first flight.”

Usually, Jones said, most new aircraft programs have their first flight conducted by a nonproduction-representative aircraft. This can mean lengthy testing periods are required before a program gets to something that is production representative, he added.

But testing with an aircraft that is extremely close to the final production version, and built on the same production line, will speed up the process, he said. “My hope is that we see a lot of future acquisitions go that way,” Jones explained. “It cuts down time, and [when] you listen to [Air Force] Secretary [Frank] Kendall or other service chiefs, it’s all about speed and getting capabilities to the field.”

Jones also pointed to Northrop’s use of digital testing as a way to “burn down risk” and find potential problems with the B-21 in a virtual environment. By conducting virtual tests, he added, the company was able to catch and fix problems before they reached the real world.

For example, he said, the real-world loads calibration tests that Northrop completed in May correlated closely with the digital models it previously conducted. And company engineers used flight simulators and digital environments to fine-tune the Raider’s windscreen.

So far, there are still six B-21s in various stages of development, including the first flight test aircraft. The second complete B-21 is dubbed G1; it will be a ground test aircraft.

Northrop would not say when work on the seventh B-21 will begin.

The unveiling of the B-21 on Friday will be the “grand finale of the day,” Northrop Grumman spokeswoman Katherine Thompson said. The rollout will also include an “advancing aeronautics expo” that features multiple aircraft, including a B-25 Mitchell — the same type of bomber flown by the Doolittle Raiders, for whom the B-21 is named.

 

F-22Raptor

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Pentagon debuts its new stealth bomber, the B-21 Raider​


WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s newest nuclear stealth bomber is making its public debut after years of secret development and as part of the Pentagon’s answer to rising concerns over a future conflict with China.

The B-21 Raider is the first new American bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. Almost every aspect of the program is classified. Ahead of its unveiling Friday at an Air Force facility in Palmdale, California, only artists’ renderings of the warplane have been released. Those few images reveal that the Raider resembles the black nuclear stealth bomber it will eventually replace, the B-2 Spirit.

The bomber is part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad, which includes silo-launched nuclear ballistic missiles and submarine-launched warheads, as it shifts from the counterterrorism campaigns of recent decades to meet China’s rapid military modernization.

China is on track to have 1,500 nuclear weapons by 2035, and its gains in hypersonics, cyber warfare, space capabilities and other areas present “the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system,” the Pentagon said this week in its annual China report.

”We needed a new bomber for the 21st Century that would allow us to take on much more complicated threats, like the threats that we fear we would one day face from China, Russia, ” said Deborah Lee James, the Air Force secretary when the Raider contract was announced in 2015. “The B-21 is more survivable and can take on these much more difficult threats.”

While the Raider may resemble the B-2, once you get inside, the similarities stop, said Kathy Warden, chief executive of Northrop Grumman Corp., which is building the Raider.

“The way it operates internally is extremely advanced compared to the B-2, because the technology has evolved so much in terms of the computing capability that we can now embed in the software of the B-21,” Warden said.

Other changes likely include advanced materials used in coatings to make the bomber harder to detect, new ways to control electronic emissions, so the bomber could spoof adversary radars and disguise itself as another object, and use of new propulsion technologies, several defense analysts said.

In a fact sheet, Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia, said it is using “new manufacturing techniques and materials to ensure the B-21 will defeat the anti-access, area-denial systems it will face.”

Warden could not discuss specifics of those technologies but said the bomber will be more stealthy.

“When we talk about low observability, it is incredibly low observability,” Warden said. “You’ll hear it, but you really won’t see it.”

Six B-21 Raiders are in production; The Air Force plans to build 100 that can deploy either nuclear weapons or conventional bombs and can be used with or without a human crew. Both the Air Force and Northrop also point to the Raider’s relatively quick development: The bomber went from contract award to debut in seven years. Other new fighter and ship programs have taken decades.

The cost of the bombers is unknown. The Air Force previously put the price for a buy of 100 aircraft at an average cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars -- roughly $753 million today — but it’s unclear how much the Air Force is actually spending.

The fact that the price is not public troubles government watchdogs.

“It might be a big challenge for us to do our normal analysis of a major program like this,” said Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight. “It’s easy to say that the B-21 is still on schedule before it actually flies. Because it’s only when one of these programs goes into the actual testing phase when real problems are discovered. And so that’s the point when schedules really start to slip and costs really start to rise.”

The Raider will not make its first flight until 2023. However, using advanced computing, Warden said, Northrop Grumman has been testing the Raider’s performance using a digital twin, a virtual replica of the one being unveiled.

The B-2 was also envisioned to be a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, but the Air Force ultimately built only 21 of them, due to cost overruns and a changed security environment after the Soviet Union fell.

Fewer than that are ready to fly on any given day due to the significant maintenance needs of the aging bomber, said Todd Harrison, an aerospace specialist and managing director at Metrea Strategic Insights.

The B-21 Raider, which takes its name from the 1942 Doolittle Raid over Tokyo, will be slightly smaller than the B-2 to increase its range, Warden said.

In October 2001, B-2 pilots set a record when they flew 44 hours straight to drop the first bombs in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the B-2 often does long round-trip missions, because there are few hangars globally that can accommodate its wingspan. That limits where B-2s can land for needed post-flight maintenance. And the hangars needed to be air-conditioned — because the Spirit’s windows don’t open, hotter climates can cook cockpit electronics.

The new Raider will also get new hangars, to accommodate the size and complexity of the bomber, Warden said.

A last noticeable difference is in the debut itself. While both will have debuted in the Air Force’s Palmdale Plant 42, in 1989 the B-2 was rolled outdoors amid much public fanfare.

Given advances in surveillance satellites and cameras, the Raider will debut very much under wraps and will be viewed inside a hangar. Invited guests including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will witness the hangar doors open to reveal the bomber for its public introduction, then the doors will close again.

“The magic of the platform,” Warden said, “is what you don’t see.”

 

A.P. Richelieu

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WASHINGTON — The Dec. 2 rollout of the B-21 Raider will mark the world’s first glimpse at a bomber that manufacturer Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force see as a generational leap in aircraft technology and development.

The B-21 — the Air Force’s first new bomber in more than three decades — will be advanced enough to qualify as a sixth-generation aircraft, Tom Jones, president of Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Systems unit, said in a Nov. 22 interview with Defense News.

The technology used in the B-21′s testing — and the Air Force’s decision to conduct its flight tests with a production-representative aircraft instead of an experimental model — could provide a path forward for more rapid, less risky aircraft acquisitions in the future, Jones added.

He explained that the B-21′s advancements in stealth capabilities, use of open-systems architecture, and inclusion of Joint All-Domain Command and Control technologies to share data across platforms will make it “the first of the sixth-gen systems.” JADC2 is the Pentagon’s effort to connect sensors to shooters across domains of warfare.

The debut of this B-21 — numbered 001 and referred to as T1, for the first flight test aircraft — at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, will mark the beginning of a major phase in the bomber’s development. Since the spring, Northrop Grumman has continued with the first bomber’s testing, final assembly, and application of coatings and paint to get it ready for the public.

Jones said that over the next few months, the first B-21 will undergo additional testing to ensure it’s ready for its first flight. That’s to include powering systems on and off, running its engines, performing taxiing test runs, and other standard integration tests.

The first flight of the B-21 will be to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where further flight tests will take place. The date of that flight is not yet scheduled; Northrop said a date will be based on the results of the ground tests but does expect it to take place sometime in 2023, a few months after the rollout.

Jones hopes the B-21 model of using a production representative aircraft — one that is essentially identical to the eventual production aircraft — for test flights will pave the way for faster acquisitions in the future.

In an October announcement about the B-21 rollout, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter touted the Air Force’s decision early on to make the flight-test aircraft production representative, saying that it “is paying dividends as we look towards first flight.”

Usually, Jones said, most new aircraft programs have their first flight conducted by a nonproduction-representative aircraft. This can mean lengthy testing periods are required before a program gets to something that is production representative, he added.

But testing with an aircraft that is extremely close to the final production version, and built on the same production line, will speed up the process, he said. “My hope is that we see a lot of future acquisitions go that way,” Jones explained. “It cuts down time, and [when] you listen to [Air Force] Secretary [Frank] Kendall or other service chiefs, it’s all about speed and getting capabilities to the field.”

Jones also pointed to Northrop’s use of digital testing as a way to “burn down risk” and find potential problems with the B-21 in a virtual environment. By conducting virtual tests, he added, the company was able to catch and fix problems before they reached the real world.

For example, he said, the real-world loads calibration tests that Northrop completed in May correlated closely with the digital models it previously conducted. And company engineers used flight simulators and digital environments to fine-tune the Raider’s windscreen.

So far, there are still six B-21s in various stages of development, including the first flight test aircraft. The second complete B-21 is dubbed G1; it will be a ground test aircraft.

Northrop would not say when work on the seventh B-21 will begin.

The unveiling of the B-21 on Friday will be the “grand finale of the day,” Northrop Grumman spokeswoman Katherine Thompson said. The rollout will also include an “advancing aeronautics expo” that features multiple aircraft, including a B-25 Mitchell — the same type of bomber flown by the Doolittle Raiders, for whom the B-21 is named.

The JADC2 concept was available already in Gripen-A 25 years ago :-;
it can fire missiles based on radar data from the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy or another Gripen.
Open Architecture and Model Based design came with Gripen E.
I guess that makes Gripen E the first sixth generation aircraft.
 

Horse_Rider

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WASHINGTON — The Dec. 2 rollout of the B-21 Raider will mark the world’s first glimpse at a bomber that manufacturer Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force see as a generational leap in aircraft technology and development.

The B-21 — the Air Force’s first new bomber in more than three decades — will be advanced enough to qualify as a sixth-generation aircraft, Tom Jones, president of Northrop Grumman’s Aeronautics Systems unit, said in a Nov. 22 interview with Defense News.

The technology used in the B-21′s testing — and the Air Force’s decision to conduct its flight tests with a production-representative aircraft instead of an experimental model — could provide a path forward for more rapid, less risky aircraft acquisitions in the future, Jones added.

He explained that the B-21′s advancements in stealth capabilities, use of open-systems architecture, and inclusion of Joint All-Domain Command and Control technologies to share data across platforms will make it “the first of the sixth-gen systems.” JADC2 is the Pentagon’s effort to connect sensors to shooters across domains of warfare.

The debut of this B-21 — numbered 001 and referred to as T1, for the first flight test aircraft — at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, will mark the beginning of a major phase in the bomber’s development. Since the spring, Northrop Grumman has continued with the first bomber’s testing, final assembly, and application of coatings and paint to get it ready for the public.

Jones said that over the next few months, the first B-21 will undergo additional testing to ensure it’s ready for its first flight. That’s to include powering systems on and off, running its engines, performing taxiing test runs, and other standard integration tests.

The first flight of the B-21 will be to Edwards Air Force Base in California, where further flight tests will take place. The date of that flight is not yet scheduled; Northrop said a date will be based on the results of the ground tests but does expect it to take place sometime in 2023, a few months after the rollout.

Jones hopes the B-21 model of using a production representative aircraft — one that is essentially identical to the eventual production aircraft — for test flights will pave the way for faster acquisitions in the future.

In an October announcement about the B-21 rollout, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter touted the Air Force’s decision early on to make the flight-test aircraft production representative, saying that it “is paying dividends as we look towards first flight.”

Usually, Jones said, most new aircraft programs have their first flight conducted by a nonproduction-representative aircraft. This can mean lengthy testing periods are required before a program gets to something that is production representative, he added.

But testing with an aircraft that is extremely close to the final production version, and built on the same production line, will speed up the process, he said. “My hope is that we see a lot of future acquisitions go that way,” Jones explained. “It cuts down time, and [when] you listen to [Air Force] Secretary [Frank] Kendall or other service chiefs, it’s all about speed and getting capabilities to the field.”

Jones also pointed to Northrop’s use of digital testing as a way to “burn down risk” and find potential problems with the B-21 in a virtual environment. By conducting virtual tests, he added, the company was able to catch and fix problems before they reached the real world.

For example, he said, the real-world loads calibration tests that Northrop completed in May correlated closely with the digital models it previously conducted. And company engineers used flight simulators and digital environments to fine-tune the Raider’s windscreen.

So far, there are still six B-21s in various stages of development, including the first flight test aircraft. The second complete B-21 is dubbed G1; it will be a ground test aircraft.

Northrop would not say when work on the seventh B-21 will begin.

The unveiling of the B-21 on Friday will be the “grand finale of the day,” Northrop Grumman spokeswoman Katherine Thompson said. The rollout will also include an “advancing aeronautics expo” that features multiple aircraft, including a B-25 Mitchell — the same type of bomber flown by the Doolittle Raiders, for whom the B-21 is named.


I heard they are keeping it such a secret that instead of taking reporters close to it, they are giving renderings for now? I can only imagine if it's B2 based with current tech, it would be a tech marvel with supercomputing capability onboard. Would it be Hypersonic (low spectrum)? I also noticed, the USAF is starting to do iterative designs like the Chinese too. The concept to buildout ONLY took 7 years, what historically takes much longer to create a functional prototype or test jet.
 

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