The secretary of the air force, Frank Kendall, confirmed the news of the service’s new stealth bomber at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.
The five aircraft, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, will be delivered as part of the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the bomber programme, the period before full-rate production begins.
“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,” Kendall said. “You will never hear me make optimistic predictions about programs. All programs have risk and the same is true of the B-21, but at this point at least, the program is making good progress to real fielded capability.”
Speaking in June, US Air Force acting acquisition executive, Darlene Costello, revealed the first two units are ready to start testing.
When asked about how complete the stealth bomber’s design is, Costello said: “We have the design. There are two test aircraft built and it will take a while to get through all the testing. And therefore, there could be some changes as a result of the testing.”
It was later clarified that the two B-21s are still in production and maybe altered following testing.
When speaking about whether B-21 development can be accelerated, Costello said the priority is “to get through the design, get completed, and not introduce concurrency” in the programme.