B-21 Update

The B-21 bomber is “progressing really well,” Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin Rand told reporters at AWS17. AFGSC now has a contingent in the Pentagon at the Rapid Capabilities Office, which is running the program, he reported. And, so far, it looks like “in the mid-2020s, we’ll have the first one at one of our bases,” with initial operating capability “in the late ‘20s,” said Rand. He reiterated his “strong recommendation” that USAF buy “at least 100” of the bombers and “make sure we get to that [number] by the late ‘30s.” At such a rate, production would be around five per year. Rand said the Air Force has a “great relationship with Northrop Grumman,” which will design and build the bomber, and he gets regular updates on the program’s progress. The company recently started the work of funding and laying out expansion at its Palmdale, Calif., facility to build the bombers, although design work will reportedly be done in Melbourne, Fla.