The Air Force successfully held a critical design review for the weapon system of its next-generation nuclear-capable bomber, completing a multi-faceted technical review that further paves the way for manufacturing and flight tests.

The B-21 weapon system critical design review (CDR) took place Nov. 28-30, the service said in a Dec. 10 release.

Artist's rendering of the Air Force's Long Range Strike Bomber, designated B-21. Photo: Air Force.
Artist’s rendering of the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber, designated B-21. Photo: Air Force.

The B-21 Raider program is run by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO). Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor, and the program completed a preliminary design review in early 2017.

“This critical design event is key to maturing the design of the new bomber and to identifying risks that are consistent with all large acquisition programs across the DoD,” said AFRCO Program Executive Officer Randall Walden in the statement. “We are excited about where the program is today and we’re looking ahead to actively manage the program to first flight.”

The review highlights the progress made since the start of the aircraft’s Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase nearly three years ago, according to the Air Force. “The event served as a multi-disciplined technical review that ensured the Air Force’s newest bomber has a stable and mature design as the program moves forward into manufacturing and flight test,” the statement said.

The Air Force plans to buy over 100 B-21 bombers to eventually replace its fleets of B-1 Lancer and B-2 Stratofortress aircraft, with initial operating capability currently scheduled in the mid-2020s.