The Air Force is currently expecting to see first flight of the B-21 next-generation bomber around December 2021, the service’s number-two military official revealed July 24.
Speaking at an Air Force Association Mitchell Institute event on Capitol Hill, Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said according to a software app he tracks on the new bomber’s progress, the service is “something like 863 days until first flight of the B-21,” which would mean a date around Dec. 3, 2021.
Air Force Capt. Leah Brading, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Public Affairs, confirmed in an email to Defense Daily that the B-21 Raider program is on schedule, but did not confirm any more specific details.
Wilson said he recently visited B-21 contractor Northrop Grumman [NOC] at their Melbourne, Florida, facilities, where the bomber is being developed. He said the development team “is moving out” on the program and is currently focused on software integration.
Back in April, then-Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the program’s next major milestone is first flight, although he did not reveal a date at the time. Bunch pinned on his fourth star this past May and is now the commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The B-21 program passed its critical design review (CDR) in late November 2018 (Defense Daily, Dec. 11, 2018). Initial operating capability (IOC) has been expected in the mid-2020s. The Air Force planss to procure at least 100 B-21 aircraft.