U.S. Air Force Builds First B-21 Raider 'Test' Stealth Bomber
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By Kris Osborn, Editor in Chief, Warrior Maven
The Air Force is now building its first “test” aircraft of the new B-21 Raider stealth bomber aircraft engineered to elude the most advanced air defenses for decades to come and destroy high-value targets over enemy territory -- without being seen.
“We’re closely monitoring the build of the additional test aircraft and associated software to support the first flight,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told an audience at an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.(according to a transcript of the event)
As for the timing of the first flight and many of the acquisition specifics, they are not available simply because the program is largely secret, in an obvious effort to prevent enemies from getting a jump-start on how they may seek to counter the aircraft. Although few details are known, engineers, observers, program managers and Air Force flag officers are all very clear -- this new bomber will introduce stealth technology the likes of which the world has never seen.
Following a successful critical design review, which closely analyzed many of the aircraft’s technologies, configurations and weapons, the Air Force has brought the program into its Engineering Manufacturing and Design phase - the point in the process where weapons and systems are built. The B-21 is built by Northrop Grumman.
Building a stealth aircraft requires a deliberate, methodical process of engineering contours from the beginning. As engineers describe it, stealth has to be “built into” the design from inception. Every bolt, seam, curve, wing and weapon needs to be built within specific parameters so as to ensure the lowest possible radar signature.
Part of this consensus, according to Senior Air Force weapons developers, is implicitly built upon the fact that the B-21 is being engineered to be perpetually upgradeable. Among other things, this means that new software, sensors, weapons, computers and avionics can quickly emerge as they become available.
While naturally sparing with details, Air Force senior leaders have said the new B-21 will be able to “hold any target at-risk, anywhere in the world, at any time.”
“The computational capabilities that were available to design the F-117 and B-2 are dwarfed by the power now available to design teams,” writes the Mitchell Institute essay,”The Imperative for Stealth.”
“Our confidence remains very high in this program,” Goldfein said.
Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.