Delivering Capability “At the Speed of Relevance”
The Secretary of the Air Force’s office announced on 10 December that the B-21 RAIDER weapon system – the US Air Force’s next strategic bomber – underwent a multi-disciplinary critical design and technical review in late November, aimed at ensuring the aircraft has a stable and mature design as the programme moves forward into manufacturing and flight test.
The review highlights the significant progress made on the B-21 since the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase began nearly three years ago. “The Air Force is pleased with how the programme is moving forward,” commented Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson. “The B-21 RAIDER programme is on the right track to make continued progress over the next few years as it now transitions from the design phase into a robust manufacturing phase that will ultimately produce our first B-21 test aircraft.”
The programme is run by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO). “This critical design event is key to maturing the design of the new bomber and to identifying risks that are consistent with all large acquisition programmes across the DoD [….] We are excited about where the programme is today and we’re looking ahead to actively manage the programme to first flight,” stated AFRCO Program Executive Officer, Randall Walden.
When Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen Stephen Wilson, was recently asked about why the AFRCO is leading the B-21 programme, he explained, “First and foremost, it starts out with culture, because they are the organisation whose culture is: ‘I’ve got to deliver capability at the speed of relevance.’ It (AFRCO) works for pretty much every type of programme that we can do. The B-21 is being run out of the AFRCO and it’s going really well.”
The B-21 bomber is a long range, highly survivable aircraft capable of penetrating and operating in future anti-access, area denial (A2D) environments. The aircraft is expected to begin delivering initial capability in the mid-2020s.