In June, we reported that two of the U.S. Air Force's B-21 stealth bombers were ready to take to the skies. While we haven't heard much or spotted them anywhere near the Edwards Base in California, there is definitely some rapid progress about the aircraft on the way to its first planned flight in 2022. The number of aircraft that are in final assembly has moved up to five, The Drive reported.
The idea for the first fighter of the 21st century has been in the works since 2014. After the development contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2015, work on its Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) began. According to the Drive, the five aircraft that are reportedly in the final assembly are part of the EMD phase, although it is not known how many aircraft will be supplied in this phase.
To be honest, there is very little that is known about these aircraft. Apart from few renderings that the defense group has shared, the aircraft and its details have remained away from everyone's radar. While this is a good thing for a stealth bomber, it has piqued the curiosity of many.
It is still not known exactly how many aircraft the Air Force plans to procure from Northrop after it beat Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the contract award. The B-21 is expected to replace the B-1 and B-2 bombers, the latter of which Northrop has supplied in the 90s, so the number could put around at least 120. However, it is not yet known, whether the Plant 42 facility in Palmdale, California, that was once the assembly site for the B-2 will be utilized again.
On its website, Northrop does mention that only 10 percent of US bombers have the ability to penetrate "advanced adversary air defenses." It will feature the kind of payload, range, and penetrability that even the B-52's do not possess.