B-21 Raider heavy bomber begins secret taxi tests
The US Air Force has confirmed that its Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider heavy strategic bomber has begun ground taxi tests in Palmdale, California. The secret tests indicate that the maiden flight of the stealth warplane is on track for later this year.
Following the release of images of the B-21 in ground engine tests last month, the confirmation of taxi tests comes after a flurry of rumors on social media along with the posting of images of dubious authenticity. Then, on October 25, a US Air Force spokesperson confirmed to Aviation Week that taxi tests had begun, with similar confirmations being given to other defense news outlets.
“I can confirm the B-21 is conducting ground taxi activities,” said the spokesperson. “Rigorous testing is a critical step in the B-21 flight-test program. Extensive testing evaluates systems, components, and functionalities. This testing allows us to mitigate risks, optimize design, and enhance operational effectiveness."
Further requests for information were responded to with a direction to contact Northrop Grumman.
The Air Force expects to buy at least 100 of the bombers and the first are scheduled to go into service by 2027. Intended to boost the existing fleet consisting of the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit, and the B-52J Stratofortress, the B-21 will replace them sometime in the 2050s.