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Meeting the B-21 Raider: 2022 to bring new bomber’s eagerly awaited rollout


Jun 19, 2014
United States
United States
WASHINGTON — The coming year will see the U.S. Air Force’s most anticipated new aircraft rollout in recent memory as the service debuts its next stealth bomber.

But 2022 will also bring what are expected to be tough choices and retirements as part of the upcoming budget proposal for the following fiscal year.

The B-21 Raider will be rolled out to the public in 2022, though there is no concrete date. Several months afterward, the Raider will make its first test flight.

“We’ll do something special as we bring out the B-21,” such as a ceremony for the unveiling or the follow-on first flight, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown said in September during Defense One’s online State of Defense conference.

This will be the first public unveiling of a new Air Force bomber in more than three decades, since Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit bomber was revealed to the public at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, in November 1988. The B-2′s first public flight took place the following year, in July 1989.

But Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Dec. 9 suggested the Air Force may continue to play its cards on the Raider close to the vest, even into 2022.

“You’re not going to get to see much of it,” Kendall said during an online Defense One panel. “We don’t want to give our enemies a head start on any of this. We’re going to acknowledge that we’re doing this, let the public be aware, let the Congress be aware of it. But we’re not going to say a lot more about what we’re doing in the public.”

Kendall said at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September that five B-21s were in various stages of production at Plant 42.

Todd Harrison, an aerospace and defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, expects the Air Force’s fiscal 2023 budget request — coming early next year — to also yield more details on the B-21. Harrison said Dec. 10 that could include more information on the service’s procurement plan as well as hints on how quickly the aircraft could be fielded.

2022 is going to be a big year for the B-21,” Harrison said.


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