September 21 (WNN) — US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall revealed during a speech this week that a weapons contractor is making “good progress” on the production of five B-21 Raider stealth bombers.
Speaking Monday at the Air Force Association’s Air, Cyber and Space conference outside Washington DC, Kendall said five test examples of the aircraft are being developed by Northrop Grumman Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., reports Flight Global and The Drive.
The B-21 Raider is the most advanced bomber ever built and is being built for complex nuclear long-range missions. All planning, analysis, reporting and testing for B-21 flights will be conducted at the 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Top military officials, including Kendall, have pushed for more B-21 builds, which are part of the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization plans.
The aircraft will replace the B-1 fleet. So far, the Air Force has only released renderings of the B-21.
As FlightGlobal reports, Northrop Grumman has increased activity at its facility in Palmdale over the past year. The Air Force wants the B-21 to be operational by the middle of the decade and the first flight of the aircraft is expected in 2022.
Previously, only two were considered production, and Kendall stated that the B-21 Raider would become “the backbone of the Air Force’s bomber fleet”, reports National Defense.
According to National Defense, “This investment in meaningful military capabilities that projects power anywhere in the world and targets at risk makes addressing my number one priority.”
In his first public speech as branch secretary, Kendall emphasized that replacing outdated aircraft and advancing China militarily, which he emphasized, was his top priority.
“While America is still the dominant military power on the planet today, we are being challenged militarily more effectively than at any other time in our history,” he said.