The B-21 Raider has just successfully completed the critical load calibration test: its first flight will be in 2023

Early last May, US-based Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s leading defense contractors, successfully completed the first and most critical payload calibration test of the B-21 long-range strike bomber, which the US Air Force is planning a first flight in 2023. This test was one of three major tests that the aircraft will undergo in this phase of ground testing en route to its first flight.

The load calibration, aimed at adjusting the instrumentation prior to flight and verifying structural integrity, has yielded positive and consistent results. During the tests, the B-21’s airframe withstands different percentages of stress to ensure that the aircraft can continue on its path to flight readiness.

During the ground test phase, in addition to load calibration, the team will power up the aircraft, test its subsystems and apply coatings and paint. The other two main phases of the ground tests will include engine tests, as well as taxiing tests on the runways at low and high speeds, followed by the first flight.

The 2023 first flight forecast, as now reported by the Air Force, is aligned with information communicated during the company’s first quarter financial and economic communication and remains within the government’s Acquisition Program baseline schedule.

As the Air Force has indicated, the focus is on a safe first flight of a production representative aircraft. With six aircraft in various stages of production and test, Northrop Grumman is making progress toward that goal as it continues to refine the build process and mature the test fleet prior to first flight.

Randy Walden, director of the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and executive director of the B-21 Raider program, recently said, “The B-21 test aircraft is the most representative production aircraft, both in structure and systems at this point in a program that I have observed in my career.”

With the first aircraft in the ground test phase and a successful payload calibration under its belt, Northrop Grumman is paving the way for the B-21 launch later this year and first flight in 2023.


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