Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force have announced plans to unveil the B-21 Raider to the world by the end of the year.
The stealth bomber is arguably the most anticipated military aircraft in history — the “sequel” to the $2 billion, UFO-like B-2 Spirit.
The next-generation update is expected to be on display during an “invite-only” event at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Palmdale, California.
“The Raider showcases the dedication and skills of the thousands of people working every day to deliver this aircraft,” Doug Young, sector vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, said.
Northrop Grumman secured a contract to develop the strike aircraft in 2015, assembling a team to design, test and build the platforms.
The company is currently working on six B-21 test aircraft, which are in various stages of final assembly.
“Northrop Grumman is proud of our partnership with the US Air Force as we deliver the B-21 Raider, a sixth-generation aircraft optimised for operations in highly contested environments,” Tom Jones, corporate vice president and president, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems, added.
The B-21 is scheduled to embark on its first flight in 2023, with the final date determined by ground test outcomes.
Northrop Grumman completed the first loads calibration test for the B-21 in early May, with the trial designed to test the plane’s airframe features under stress to determine flight readiness.
The recent test is the first of three testing procedures that the B-21 will have to complete before it receives a greenlight to undergo its first flight.
Future tests are scheduled to include testing the plane’s subsystems, as well as applying coatings, before turning to low-speed and high-speed taxiing.
The B-21 is designed to be long-range, highly survivable and capable of carrying a mix of conventional and nuclear ordnance.
This is expected to enable the USAF to penetrate enemy air defences anywhere in the world.