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Air Force’s $750 million stealth bomber takes first flight

By CM Chaney · November 18, 2023

In brief…

  • B-21 stealth bomber took first test flight in California on Friday
  • Aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman, expected to be operational by 2030
  • Can carry conventional and nuclear munitions
  • Part of Air Force program to replace B-1 and B-2 bomber fleets
  • Air Force outlines future bases for training and operations
The B-21 Raidaer was unveiled in December 2022.  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District

The U.S. Air Force’s long-awaited B-21 stealth bomber took off on its maiden flight in California on Friday, marking a major milestone for one of the military’s most secretive and highly-anticipated programs.

The aircraft, developed by defense contractor Northrop Grumman, departed the company’s facility at the Air Force’s Plant 42 in Palmdale around sunrise, according to a witness who spoke to Reuters. It flew in front of a group of aviation enthusiasts and amateur photographers around 7 a.m. local time.

The B-21 is expected to be operational by 2030 and will “provide our nation with a strategic asset capable of penetrating enemy air defenses in highly contested environments and striking targets anywhere in the world,” the Air Force said. It can carry both “conventional and nuclear munitions.”

“The B-21 Raider is in flight testing,” Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek confirmed to FOX Business. “Flight testing is a critical step in the test campaign managed by the Air Force Test Center and 412th Test Wing’s B-21 Combined Test Force to provide survivable, long-range, penetrating strike capabilities to deter aggression and strategic attacks against the United States, allies, and partners.”

The bombers cost approximately $750 million each, according to a Fox News Digital report from December 2022, when the B-21 was first unveiled in Palmdale.

The Air Force intends for its future fleet of at least 100 B-21s to “replace both the B-1 and the B-2 fleets with new penetrating deep strike conventional and nuclear capabilities,” it said.

“Six test aircraft are being produced now,” the Air Force added. “The test aircraft are being built on the same production line, using the same tools, processes and technicians that will build the production aircraft.”

Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota will be “the first B-21 Main Operating Base and location for the B-21 Formal Training Unit,” the Air Force stated. “Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Dyess AFB, Texas will receive aircraft as they become available. Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, will coordinate maintenance and sustainment of the B-21 and Edwards, AFB, California will lead testing and evaluation of the aircraft.”