Five B-21 Raider Stealth Bombers Reported to be in Different Stages of Completion at Palmdale Air Force Plant 42

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Artist’s rendering of the B-21 Raider

Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider Stealth Bomber: In 2015, Northrup Grumman was awarded the B-21 Engineering and Manufacturing Development contract for the B-21 Raider advanced strategic bomber. The Air Force has publicly reported it intends to purchase at least 100 aircraft that it says will form the backbone of the service’s bomber force, with an average unit procurement cost of $639 million each.

Earlier this year, the Air Force announced the B-21 Raider will be headed to Edwards Air Force Base, Edwards, CA, where the 420th Flight Test Squadron will plan, test, analyze, and report all ground and flight testing.

Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber Conference, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall revealed: “As I speak there are now [five] test aircraft being manufactured on the B-21 production line,” at the Palmdale Air Force Plant 42 (PMD). As of the writing of this article, this is the most current, tangible information we have on the B-21 raider production status.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall

During my research for this article, this author reached out to a Facebook social media group, a group I have enjoyed membership at for years and had made some close connections, whose members routinely shared “inside” information about PMD and associated points of interest: “Palmdale AF Plant 42 (PMD) and BJ’s Corner”.  I posted a modest group question: “If anybody here has any information on B-21 Raider production at Palmdale please PM me”. I was quickly, inexplicably, removed from the group. Members from the group did not return any queries regarding this. This, in itself, makes the B-21 Raider story that much more intriguing. Maybe a sensitive nerve was struck on one of the larger “black projects” in US history, who knows, but this is typical behavior displayed by those close to government who have things to hide.

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I guess the moral of the story is “be careful of the questions you ask”. – author

The USAF has reported that the first operational B-21 Raider unit will be located at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. Additional B-21 deployments will be heading to Whiteman AFB, Knobnoster, MO, and Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX. I eagerly look forward to seeing one for the first time.

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B-21 Raider flying in formation with a (proposed) Lockheed LMT 6th Gen. fighter, over the Northrop Grumman plant at Palmdale, CA. – background image: Area 51 – Dreamland Resort, artwork – the author
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Original, projected, B-21 Raider artwork formulated by the author.
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My artwork was challenged by some saying the sweep on my B-21 wing was too great and didn’t match the images released by the USAF and Northrop Grumman. This image illustrated that perspective can greatly change what an object ultimately looks like in 3D. Below, I’ve put together a compilation of what artists and media alike thought the F-117A stealth fighter would look like based on government leaked renditions of the future fighter. These images were taken so seriously that major scale model manufacturers (Testors to name one) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to tool and produce scale models of the projected F-117A that were very wrong. Nobody except those on the inside will ever actually know what the Raider looks like. If you ask me, this is the exciting and fun part of the game.
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