WASHINGTON — The primary flight of the B-21 Raider stealth bomber will happen a number of months later than the Air Pressure anticipated, the service’s secretary stated Wednesday.
“It’s slipped from the unique schedule — that we had been utilizing as a schedule to handle by — by a number of months,” Frank Kendall stated on the McAleese & Associates convention in Washington, earlier than noting he’s recused from making choices on this system resulting from his earlier consulting work with B-21 producer Northrop Grumman. “It’s nonetheless inside the baseline [schedule] that we initially had for this system.”
In an announcement to Protection Information, Northrop Grumman stated it nonetheless expects to conduct the B-21′s first flight in 2023, “knowledgeable by occasions and information.”
“This system stays on monitor to the federal government baseline for price, schedule and efficiency,” Northrop Grumman stated. “This system continues to give attention to system maturity, manufacturing readiness and sustainment preparedness to greatest place the B-21 for first flight and an efficient flight check marketing campaign, resulting in preliminary working functionality.”
The primary B-21 was unveiled to the general public Dec. 2. The Air Pressure and Northrop Grumman by no means publicly offered a date for this bomber’s first flight, solely saying it might comply with the rollout, happen this yr and be “information and event-driven.”
The primary flight of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the final bomber the Air Pressure launched to its fleet, occurred in July 1989, about eight months after its November 1988 rollout.
In a press convention with reporters after the McAleese convention, Kendall declined to say what induced the schedule to slip. He stated the delay was with the interior schedule the Air Pressure had set, and didn’t point out a extra major problem with this system.
“You handle to a schedule, which you are likely to make a little bit bit aggressive to attempt to maintain stress on individuals to maneuver quick,” Kendall informed reporters. “There’s a baseline schedule, which is on the books … however there’s been no breach of that. However with the interior schedule, there’s been a slip of some months.”
Kristyn Jones, the Air Pressure’s high finance official who’s now serving because the division’s interim undersecretary, stated in a finances briefing Monday the service has six B-21s in varied ranges of manufacturing at Air Pressure Plant 42 in Palmdale, California. That confirmed quantity is unchanged from a few yr in the past.
In a roundtable with reporters final week on the Air and House Forces Affiliation’s convention, Kendall pledged that the B-21 program wouldn’t repeat the “extreme concurrency” issues of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Concurrency is what occurs when an plane strikes via improvement and into procurement on the similar time; if issues are found in testing, these issues then should be fastened in already-built or below building plane.
Kendall famous he as soon as known as the F-35′s concurrency issues “acquisition malpractice,” and stated the B-21 wouldn’t repeat these errors.
Kendall stated on the McAleese occasion he and William LaPlante, now undersecretary of protection for acquisition, know-how and logistics, structured the B-21 program through the Obama administration “to be aggressive, however not loopy.” On the time, Kendall held the job LaPlante does now, and LaPlante was the Air Pressure’s assistant secretary for acquisition, know-how and logistics.
“Given the threats that we face, we have to take some threat,” Kendall stated. “There’s no such factor as a risk-free program. However there’s prudent threat, and there’s loopy threat.”
As a result of the B-21 is a totally new plane design, Kendall stated, it’s smart to conduct some flight testing and ensure “the onerous issues to do” are profitable earlier than committing to manufacturing.
“However that doesn’t imply you need to do all of the flying program earlier than you begin manufacturing,” Kendall stated. “You need to do sufficient to really feel snug that the design is secure, and that what you’re taking into manufacturing isn’t going to should have main modifications after you’ve made that dedication.”
In January, Northrop Grumman executives stated in an earnings name the corporate anticipated the Air Pressure to award the primary manufacturing contract for the B-21 later this yr.
However on the AFA convention, Kendall and Air Pressure acquisition chief Andrew Hunter declined to say whether or not they had been planning to award such a contract in 2023, and stated the service is concentrated on the bomber’s first flight.
The primary B-21, which is numbered 001, has been present process floor exams in latest months in preparation for its first flight to Edwards Air Pressure Base in California, the place the Air Pressure will conduct additional flight exams.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Protection Information. He beforehand coated management and personnel points at Air Pressure Occasions, and the Pentagon, particular operations and air warfare at Army.com. He has traveled to the Center East to cowl U.S. Air Pressure operations.