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Wed, Jan 24, 2024

B-21 Raider in Production

Concurrent Development Still the Go-To for New Defense Programs

The Pentagon has apparently approved the B-21 Raider to begin production already, according to a statement from a beltway bureaucrat.

“Production of the B-21 ‘Raider’ stealth bomber is moving forward," said a statement from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment William LaPlante. In a statement to defense journos, he confirmed that things are already galloping along on the next-gen stealth bomber.

"This past fall, based on the results of ground and flight tests and the team’s mature plans for manufacturing, I gave the go-ahead to begin producing B-21s at a low rate,” said LaPlante. "One of the key attributes of this program has been designing for production from the start — and at scale — to provide a credible deterrent to adversaries. If you don’t produce and field to warfighters at scale, the capability doesn’t really matter."

The news is somewhat surprising to those familiar with the old school of aircraft procurement - going through the successive motions of design, prototyping, testing, and approving a clean-sheet aircraft is now passé in Washington DC, apparently too time-consuming and inflexible for the Air Force's future weapon systems. Previous attempts to save time and money with concurrent production gave birth to long-running headaches like the abortive Littoral Combat Ship, and the expensive F-35 Lightning II. The latter has managed to overcome much of the bad press in recent years, but still, the fighter remains in 'Low Rate Initial Production' despite years of manufacture and use, with one costly overhaul after another.

That makes some around the beltway leery of another go at concurrent development, particularly with a nuclear-capable stealth bomber like the B-21 Raider. The Air Force has said it wants 100 units to start, and plans for the Raider to enter into service in an optimistic mid 2020's time frame. Northrop Grumman commented on the decision to move forward, confirming that the Raider is already on its way.

“As shared by the U.S. Air Force, the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider has entered low-rate initial production. Our team received the contract award after B-21 entered flight testing within the program baseline schedule. Our production representative test aircraft indicated readiness for production, achieving all flight performance and data requirements," said the company.

“As the world’s first six-generation aircraft, B-21 forms the backbone of the future for U.S. air power, delivering a new era of capability and flexibility through advanced integration of data, sensors and weapons, and is rapidly upgradable to outpace evolving threats."

FMI: www.northropgrumman.com

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