Progress Benefiting from Early Application of Digital Tools
Five B-21 RAIDER bombers are in production at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, CA facility, according to a statement by the new Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, during his State of the Force address to the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on 20 September.
“As I speak, there are now five test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 production line at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. This investment in meaningful military capabilities that project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world addresses my No. 1 priority,” he stated, referring to Air and Space Forces’ ability to continuously deter and defeat threats.
Previous indications, in January, were that that two test aircraft were making their way down the production line in Palmdale. According to Doug Young, VP/GM of Northrop Grumman’s Strike Division, this significant progress can be credited to a strong customer partnership, early application of digital tools and a talented, dedicated workforce.
“We have a nationwide industry team who has shown tremendous dedication and grit over the past 18 months […] Combined with our extensive collaboration and transparency with our Air Force customer, and the success we’ve had in bringing digital tools into our design and production processes, the B-21 program is leading the way in many respects.”
The application of new digital tools and processes early in the engineering and manufacturing development phase has been a focus of recently released information on the programme. The use of augmented and virtual reality, as well as ground and airborne test beds, have been recently cited as enablers of programme progress and risk reduction.
“The integration of our digital design capabilities with our advanced manufacturing technologies means we’re working smarter and faster to bring next-generation technologies to life,” said Chris Daughters, Aeronautics sector VP of Engineering. “Our ability to continually reduce risk throughout EMD by utilizing these transformative digital capabilities is going to pay dividends throughout the full lifecycle of the aircraft.”
“With the capability to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world, this weapon system is critical to our national security,” Young concluded. “Northrop Grumman is committed to delivering the B-21 RAIDER to the warfighter on time, to ensure America can project its power globally for decades to come.”