B-21 Powered Up In Advance Of First Flight


Northrop Grumman says it has powered up its first B-21 stealth bomber in advance of a first flight that is still being forecast for later this year. The top-secret program came up in an earnings call last week, and top Northrop executives indicated the program is more or less on schedule. “We remain on track for first flight this year,” said CFO David Keffer. “Again, that timing continues to depend on events and data over time.”

Northrop Grumman unveiled the B-21 last December, saying it was going to be visible on the runway at its home airport in Palmdale in California’s high desert. But the plane hasn’t been seen since and there have been some delays announced in that time. When the B-21 does finally fly, it won’t be for long. It will head directly to Edwards Air Force Base, about 40 miles away, where the manufacturer and the Air Force can wring it out in private. Low-rate initial production of the aircraft is expected to begin next year. The Air Force has ordered 100 aircraft initially and could buy as many as 200 at a current cost of $692 million each.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. That will be better than the interminably long low-level ear-splitting F-16 routines every afternoon this year, where the pilots intentionally turned their jet exhausts toward the flightline. At my age, my hearing ain’t so great, but at a half-mile off the flightline, behind buildings and in the trees, it was still painful. I’d hope there were no children without hearing protection watching from the flightline, but I know for a fact that there were. Every. Damn. Day.

    It made me long for the daily 6am wake-up call of the Aeroshell T-6 team departure. They didn’t have to wind their prop tips past supersonic, but they did because, apparently, that’s their thang. But at least that desecration of the Wisconsin morning stillness didn’t last thirty seconds. The F-16 routine went on forever, it seemed.

  2. If this is really a “top-secret program” then I have to assume that whatever the public is being shown is not what the Air Force will actually be flying.