As reported by Air Force Magazine, speaking at the 2022 Nuclear Deterrence Summit, Maj. Gen. Jason R. Armagost, the director of strategic plans, programs, and requirements at Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), said that the B-21 Raider continues to be a “model” program for the Air Force, with six of the new bombers currently in production and some of its software already validated through digital testing.
Armagost said on Feb. 9, 2022 that the new stealth bomber will likely fly in 2022, echoing previous predictions by other Air Force officials.
“The B-21, going into the future, is going to be our penetrating, get inside the anti-access, area of denial, dual-capable aircraft,” said Armagost, the director of strategic plans. “There are now six of those in existence. The rollout will probably be some time this year. I’m not at liberty to give the likely date of that, but [it will be] quickly followed by first flight.”
US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall stated in september 2021 that five B-21s were in production.
Armagost confirmed to Air Force Magazine that another started in the past few weeks. Armagost pointed out that the development of the B-21 has been aided by the USAF’s embrace of digital technologies to speed up the process.
“We are capitalizing on the revolution in digital—models-based systems engineering, open mission systems architecture software,” Armagost said. “As an example, the software for the fuel control system, which is a pretty complex thing, is completely done on an aircraft that hasn’t even flown yet as a test article, because of how we’re able to do models-based systems engineering. And they actually built a fuel systems model and tested the software, and the software is ready to go.”
It’s not the first time digital engineering has played a role in the modernization of the Air Force’s bomber fleet. Late last year, Rolls-Royce North America President and CEO Tom Bell said the company had digitally “built” a B-52’s wing with the company’s F130 engines installed to demonstrate its advantages and win the contract for the B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program.
According to Armagost digital technologies have also been integrated into the B-21’s future sustainment.
“One of the things that I’m most excited about is the requirements for new systems that haven’t even flown … yet. The fact that there’s a modernization effort built into those already, right?” Armagost said. “So in the B-21, for example, there’s technologies that are explored that we can risk-reduce through other platforms, potentially, and integrate ahead of the aircraft even flying. And so it’s kind of an exciting way to get back to that models-based systems engineering [that] has kind of opened up some possibilities on sustainment, interacting with the environment in ways that are really useful to the future systems.”
The B-21 Raider is being developed to replace the Air Force’s aging B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit aircraft to form a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and modified B-52s. The B-21 will be a long-range, highly survivable bomber aircraft capable of carrying a variety of mixed conventional munitions or nuclear ordinance.
The B-21 Raider will be capable of penetrating the toughest defenses to deliver precision strikes anywhere in the world, playing a vital role in America’s national security.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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