21st Century Agile, Flexible Strike Asset Taking Shape
In little more than two years since completing Critical Design Review (CDR), the Northrop Grumman B-21 RAIDER digital design has been brought to life, with two test aircraft currently in production in Palmdale, CA.
Design and build work was initiated in February 2016, with CDR following in 2018. Today, the first test article is “really starting to look like a bomber,” in the words of a recent interview given by Randall Walden, Director of the US Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
Infrastructure investments have yielded significant benefits in the design and assembly, with the workforce leveraging cutting-edge technologies—including highly immersive virtual environments, and both augmented and virtual reality—to drive innovation in digital engineering and advanced manufacturing to build a producible, sustainable and maintainable 21st century bomber.
“Our early and continued investment in infrastructure, design maturation, risk reduction and our workforce has been a significant driver of progress on our first two aircraft on the production line in Palmdale,” commented Steve Sullivan, VP/GM, Strike Division at Northrop Grumman. “As a result, we are well-positioned for low-rate initial production following key milestones in 2022 and beyond.”
A recent systems integration demonstration that further matured RAIDER hardware and software integration, which earned praise from the Air Force, provides a good example of the impact of these infrastructure and employee investments. These efforts are instrumental to the Raider’s rapid development.
“We’re not getting something experimental,” declared Dr Will Roper, the former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in a January 2021 interview. “We expect to get a representation of the full production [aircraft] to first flight. It is being designed for production innovation, for maintainability and sustainability, up front and back.” Northrop Grumman and the USAF are continuing their steadfast collaboration to provide the long-range penetrating strike aircraft the nation needs.
“The B-21 RAIDER is the product of a proud partnership between Northrop Grumman and the US Air Force,” Sullivan added. “We are committed to delivering the world’s most capable, technologically advanced bomber that will equip our warfighters with every strategic advantage against our adversaries.”