B-21 Completes Redesign With No Cost, Schedule Impact: USAF

b-21 artist concept
Artist's rendering of the B-21A.
Credit: Northrop Grumman

A “major redesign” that fixed a size problem with the engine inlets on the Northrop Grumman B-21 did not cause a cost or schedule breach for the program, U.S. Air Force acquisition officials said Feb. 24. 

The recently disclosed redesign “is, what I would consider, part of the development process and, to my knowledge, is not slowing the program down,” said Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson, the military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. 

“There’s nothing going on in that program that is leading to either a cost or schedule breach,” Richardson added, speaking to reporters during the virtual Air Warfare Symposium. 

Richardson responded to a question from Aerospace DAILY about comments attributed to Randall Walden, the director of the Rapid Capabilities Office. Walden told Air Force magazine that a “major redesign” was required to fix problems with airflow and thrust on the B-21, which were related to the design of the bomber’s inlets, serpentine air ducts and exhausts. 

The USAF awarded Northrop a $21.4 billion contract, which was calculated in 2010 dollars, in October 2015 to begin developing the B-21. A second aircraft has now entered the production system five months after the Air Force confirmed the first, although neither has reached the final assembly stage. 

Air Force officials remain excited about new capabilities coming with the B-21. In prerecorded remarks broadcast during the virtual event, Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Global Strike Command, highlighted the ease of integrating new weapons on the new bomber. 

“It would take me years to integrate a new standoff missile on the B-2,” Hyten said. “It will take me months with the B-21.”

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.