The B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber Makes Its Maiden Flight
The B-21 left Northrop's facility at the Air Force's Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, at sunrise on Friday, according to witnesses as reported by Reuters.
The USAF would later operate the B-21 alongside its predecessor, the B-2 Spirit, built by the same company before it was retired. Both bombers can carry nuclear and conventional weapons as well as weapons around the world with support for mid-air refuelling by tanker aircraft.
The long-range B-21 bomber was estimated to cost about $ 550 million per unit in 2010, or about $ 750 million today.
However, the USAF keeps other pricing information secret, which makes validating the proposed costs difficult, the Congressional Research Service said in a 2021 report. The Air Force plans to equip 100 B-21s to replace the B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers.
According to the Pentagon, operating a B-1B costs around $ 60,000 per hour, and a B-2 costs approximately $ 65,000 per hour.
Six test aircraft are in production now. The planes are built on the same lines, using the equipment, processes and technicians that would make a production plane.
Northrop Grumman calls the aircraft a sixth-generation aircraft, given its ability to connect with other aircraft and integrate future weapons into its system architecture.
The B-21 also features durable surface materials that enable low observability, requiring less maintenance and reducing operating costs and downtime.