US Air Force B-21 Bomber Begins Ground Testing 

The US Air Force’s B-21 Raider bomber has entered the ground testing phase ahead of its expected rollout and maiden flight later this year.

The Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft has been moved to a calibration facility to test its airframe load stress capacity under conditions such as turbulent landing and during weapons drops. 

Air Force Magazine quoted Rapid Capabilities Office Director Randall Walden as saying that the load calibration test ensures that the structure “is designed and built to what we actually meant it to do.” 

It “gives us great insight into, ‘Did the actual design meet our needs and did the manufacturing of that meet our needs?’”

Design Validation

Before the ground testing stage, the aircraft west through extensive laboratory evaluation “to reduce risk and ensure no surprises pop up during the test program,” Defense News wrote, citing Northrop’s Aeronautics Systems president Tom Jones.

“With the first [B-21] test aircraft in formal ground test, software and hardware are coming together,” Jones said. “The phase we’re in now will further prove out our design on our way to first flight.”

Five More Under Production

Five more nuclear-capable Raiders are currently in various stages of production, one more than previously stated. The aircraft is being designed to penetrate anti-access/area denial environments.

The air force wants a minimum of 100 —  and ideally, up to 200 — B-21s to replace its fleet of 62 B-1B Lancers and 20 B-2A Spirits to fly alongside its modernized B-52s. Delivery is expected to begin in the mid-2020s.

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