Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider (LRS-B)

sferrin

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
15,341
Reaction score
4,632
Well that sounds pretty impressive. Perhaps the USAF has turned a corner.
Uhm, wut?

"The National Nuclear Security Administration had set a goal of producing 30 pits per year by 2026 and 80 by 2030. But, “I think NNSA will readily admit they’re not going to make that requirement,” Wolfe said."
I think that gripe would be more DoE than USAF.
Just pointing out that while one facet of deterrence may be looking up we have a LONG way to go.
 

Desertfox

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
351
Reaction score
203
I believe that NNSA statement refers to new pits. There are also a ton of old pits that can and will be refurbished. Not all the programs will be using completely new pits.
 

rooster

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
440
Reaction score
296

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272
To be more accurate the quote is “There are now six of those in existence." The last was started recently.
Are you implying that one or more has completed production? That would certainly seem logical in that one of the previous five has completed production and will be rolled out later this year. If not then the headline is true in that there are six B-21's currently in production (at one stage or another) however the AF defines "production". This is +1 from AFA which would seem quite reasonable given A) the time that has elapsed, and B) The soon to be rolled out article #1.

No worries. I'm just pointing out that "in existence" and "in production" are different phrases. They may have the same meaning in this case. They may not.

But, you're probably correct.
 

bring_it_on

I really should change my personal text
Joined
Jul 4, 2013
Messages
2,828
Reaction score
1,243
It's a good point. Six in "existence" could mean five in production, and one completed and ready for rollout. :D
 

rooster

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
440
Reaction score
296
It's a good point. Six in "existence" could mean five in production, and one completed and ready for rollout. :D
And, with all the advanced modeling, perhaps a compressed flight test schedule.
That's allegedly because of the Raider using some off the shelf technology from other black programs.... I wonder if when Raider is unveiled we can see these other black programs. I'd settle for some grainy poor pics ala f117 1988. Either way the stealth bomber fleet its growing 25% very soon
 

FighterJock

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Oct 29, 2007
Messages
2,331
Reaction score
1,225

I would not hold my breath as to if there are going to be any other Black Program reveals post B-21 rollout, rooster.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Flyaway

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2015
Messages
7,680
Reaction score
6,957
I’d of thought the RQ-180 especially the way it keeps putting in aerial appearances.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

FighterJock

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Oct 29, 2007
Messages
2,331
Reaction score
1,225

I don't think that it could be the RQ-180 as we already know that it is out there and flying, I would think that to be a proper Black Program reveal it should be something like the plane that crashed in 1994 at Boscombe Down, I would love it to be finally revealed as it would answer many questions that I have.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272

BillRo

ACCESS: Secret
Senior Member
Joined
May 12, 2008
Messages
211
Reaction score
265
I understood the second airframe was the static test article, since structural test points need to be proven ahead of the flying prototype.
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272
I understood the second airframe was the static test article, since structural test points need to be proven ahead of the flying prototype.
Hey Bring_it_on,

Thanks for that.

To Bill's point, this is confusing to me. The article states the "first aircraft expected to fly" has been moved. It's characterized as a calibration test aircraft. It sounds like static airframe testing doesn't need to be completed prior to flight. Hypothetically, is that likely or is it more likely that #2 is almost completed.

To the group...

IIRC, first four B-2's flew one a year, 89, 90, 91, then 92. Any sense or reporting if first B-21's will be completed more quickly?
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272
Yeah considering how long we’ve known about the RQ-180 it’s more a grey program than anything else.

I think this was to reduce costs and streamline timelines. First you have to find qualified people then takes an ungodly amount of time to get them clearances and probably even longer for black projects. By that time they have probably found another job. For a program of this size that's years. The overhead for black projects has to be at least 20%. Not worth it when you want to build 100 or more.
 

rooster

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
440
Reaction score
296
I understood the second airframe was the static test article, since structural test points need to be proven ahead of the flying prototype.
Hey Bring_it_on,

Thanks for that.

To Bill's point, this is confusing to me. The article states the "first aircraft expected to fly" has been moved. It's characterized as a calibration test aircraft. It sounds like static airframe testing doesn't need to be completed prior to flight. Hypothetically, is that likely or is it more likely that #2 is almost completed.

To the group...

IIRC, first four B-2's flew one a year, 89, 90, 91, then 92. Any sense or reporting if first B-21's will be completed more quickly?
Considering the speed they are being built is more than enough indication.
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272
I understood the second airframe was the static test article, since structural test points need to be proven ahead of the flying prototype.
Hey Bring_it_on,

Thanks for that.

To Bill's point, this is confusing to me. The article states the "first aircraft expected to fly" has been moved. It's characterized as a calibration test aircraft. It sounds like static airframe testing doesn't need to be completed prior to flight. Hypothetically, is that likely or is it more likely that #2 is almost completed.

To the group...

IIRC, first four B-2's flew one a year, 89, 90, 91, then 92. Any sense or reporting if first B-21's will be completed more quickly?
Considering the speed they are being built is more than enough indication.
We have no indication when AV-2/AV-3 will fly. But I agree that if rollout is Q1 and it is "quickly followed" (< 6 months) by 1st flight then that is an extremely good sign. Bullish would be to see AV-2 this year as well. It seems more likely to me that we will see AV-2 and 3 in 2023.

Perhaps 'the full Monty' would be an extremely short flight testing regime. Something that only needs to validate the modeling completed before the aircraft were built. That would be transformative.
 

books

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Messages
8
Reaction score
16

For anyone not following the NGAD thread, I just put up an af.mil link there in which Frank Kendall notes that B-21 (as well as NGAD) unmanned teammates would notionally be about 1/2 the price of their manned partners.

Fairly high end-sounding, IMHO.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

rooster

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
440
Reaction score
296

For anyone not following the NGAD thread, I just put up an af.mil link there in which Frank Kendall notes that B-21 (as well as NGAD) unmanned teammates would notionally be about 1/2 the price of their manned partners.

Fairly high end-sounding, IMHO.
That is expensive but what else do you expect from Washington?
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272

For anyone not following the NGAD thread, I just put up an af.mil link there in which Frank Kendall notes that B-21 (as well as NGAD) unmanned teammates would notionally be about 1/2 the price of their manned partners.

Fairly high end-sounding, IMHO.
That is expensive but what else do you expect from Washington?

I get the point but he was a bit more nuanced.

"We’re looking for systems that cost nominally on the order of at least half as much as the manned systems that we're talking about for both NGAD and for B-21” while adding capability, he said. “ … They could deliver a range of sensors, other mission payloads, and weapons, or other mission equipment and they can also be attritable or even sacrificed if doing so conferred a major operational advantage – something we would never do with a crewed platform.”
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272

"We’re looking for systems that cost nominally on the order of at least half as much as the manned systems that we're talking about for both NGAD and for B-21” while adding capability, he said. “ … They could deliver a range of sensors, other mission payloads, and weapons, or other mission equipment and they can also be attritable or even sacrificed if doing so conferred a major operational advantage – something we would never do with a crewed platform.”

A thought experiment...

Optimally, I presume, for a B-21 unmanned wingman you would design a separate airframe. But is it really worth billions in design and development costs? We're talking about very low production numbers, say ~100 if you're fortunate. I expect it won't need to be nuclear capable either.

Any way to calculate how much you save by just an 'option delete' of all the 'manned' bits? Probably not $250m in 2010 dollars.

Another option is to allow NG to lead the way. There may also be some production line efficiency, automation, and vertical integration opportunities that NG has discovered in the last seven years. Perhaps the Tesla approach? Optimize the machine that builds the machine. Take what you've learned from the B-21 assembly line already and build a second assembly line for the unmanned airframe. Not focusing on optimizing the airframe necessarily, but optimizing the production line. In Tesla's iteration it includes casting large sections of the vehicle, developing their own on-board computer and chips, etc. For B-21, who knows. They're seven years into this, surely they've learned some things, developed some new materials, that are difficult to incorporate into a highly choreographed, complex, production line consisting of vendors with strict contracts. A 'net new' line of, ostensibly, the same airframe, offers many benefits for NG to incorporate production efficiency (less cost, more profit) and the USAF to increase production rates. In effect it's what they've done from B-2 to B-21 isn't it.

In the end, a 'change request' puts the DoD footing the bill. Allowing NG to iterate their manufacturing processes on a second line only requires the DoD to purchase what they produce, which it seems they are willing to do if the cost savings are there.

Once that 2nd line is operational then 'lessons learned' can be iterated into the line, or both lines, as required.

Now that I've written this out, I expect this is exactly what's happened: NG has learned that they can produce an unmanned system with additional capabilities for less then half of B-21. Let's hope they don't wait until 2024 to get started.
 

TomcatViP

Hellcat
Joined
Feb 12, 2017
Messages
5,472
Reaction score
5,219
Economic senses would make that they will wait until the manned bomber program is fully funded and secured before they unveil anything else.
First there is the man power constraints (this is a black program where accredited ppl at this level, capable to nurture the experience gained so far, are not easy to find).
Secondly, there is the risks to be involved yet in another design loop with additional requirements added to early inceptions.
Thirdly, the overall simplification of the design is a an entirely new design iteration by itself. It gonna cost time and money as requiring to solve its own set of unique challenges.

IMOHO, NG is not going to push forward anything unmanned before the B-21 is fully secured, as much on the budget side than technically.
 

merriman

David Douglass Merriman lll
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2013
Messages
657
Reaction score
1,327
NeilChapman, you say more in one post than most can squirt out in a three-page epic. You're my go-to guy for all things B-21. Your content is information rich.
 

_Del_

I really should change my personal text... Or not.
Joined
Jan 4, 2012
Messages
766
Reaction score
657
B-21 program is critical for NG. The program cannot survive a Boeing-style KC-46 debacle. I think the in-house philosophy is probably plow deep, not wide for the same reasons Tomcat gives. Keep your pool of talent available to troubleshoot the development program until they get to full scale production. After that they can spread themselves thinner and give man hours to new efforts.
 

Hydroman

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Jan 28, 2008
Messages
171
Reaction score
246

"We’re looking for systems that cost nominally on the order of at least half as much as the manned systems that we're talking about for both NGAD and for B-21” while adding capability, he said. “ … They could deliver a range of sensors, other mission payloads, and weapons, or other mission equipment and they can also be attritable or even sacrificed if doing so conferred a major operational advantage – something we would never do with a crewed platform.”

A thought experiment...

Optimally, I presume, for a B-21 unmanned wingman you would design a separate airframe. But is it really worth billions in design and development costs? We're talking about very low production numbers, say ~100 if you're fortunate. I expect it won't need to be nuclear capable either.

Any way to calculate how much you save by just an 'option delete' of all the 'manned' bits? Probably not $250m in 2010 dollars.

Another option is to allow NG to lead the way. There may also be some production line efficiency, automation, and vertical integration opportunities that NG has discovered in the last seven years. Perhaps the Tesla approach? Optimize the machine that builds the machine. Take what you've learned from the B-21 assembly line already and build a second assembly line for the unmanned airframe. Not focusing on optimizing the airframe necessarily, but optimizing the production line. In Tesla's iteration it includes casting large sections of the vehicle, developing their own on-board computer and chips, etc. For B-21, who knows. They're seven years into this, surely they've learned some things, developed some new materials, that are difficult to incorporate into a highly choreographed, complex, production line consisting of vendors with strict contracts. A 'net new' line of, ostensibly, the same airframe, offers many benefits for NG to incorporate production efficiency (less cost, more profit) and the USAF to increase production rates. In effect it's what they've done from B-2 to B-21 isn't it.

In the end, a 'change request' puts the DoD footing the bill. Allowing NG to iterate their manufacturing processes on a second line only requires the DoD to purchase what they produce, which it seems they are willing to do if the cost savings are there.

Once that 2nd line is operational then 'lessons learned' can be iterated into the line, or both lines, as required.

Now that I've written this out, I expect this is exactly what's happened: NG has learned that they can produce an unmanned system with additional capabilities for less then half of B-21. Let's hope they don't wait until 2024 to get started.
I have posted this previously, I think NGC is also using Scaled Composites in a smart way as well, I assume Scaled was involved with B-21 (including the RQ-180) from the beginning (i.e. Doug Shane and Kevin Mickey as examples) Scaled developed some pretty nice composite designs and fabrication techniques over the years, definitely applicable to B-21.
 

rooster

ACCESS: Secret
Joined
Jun 21, 2019
Messages
440
Reaction score
296
I have posted this previously, I think NGC is also using Scaled Composites in a smart way as well, I assume Scaled was involved with B-21 (including the RQ-180) from the beginning (i.e. Doug Shane and Kevin Mickey as examples) Scaled developed some pretty nice composite designs and fabrication techniques over the years, definitely applicable to B-21.
I highly doubt SC has had any design involvement with the B21. As innovative as the company is they are best left to small scale projects.... Small aircraft projects. Northrop does not need they help. They have never built an operational aircraft for the military. Trust me, all the design work was done in house and farming it out only decreases security and increases time. A company with a history like NG going to SC is an insult to NG.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

RavenOne

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Jun 18, 2008
Messages
537
Reaction score
993

Which hangar at Palmdale?? That’s the the magic question AFAIK N-G only has the one lest they’re towed it / low loader en masse escort in the dead of night up the road to Edwards.

Managed it with the A-12 fuselage across from Burbank to Groom in the early 60s.

cheers
 

Attachments

  • 29206241-AB5C-4CBF-ABB1-6B3C1CBC022A.jpeg
    29206241-AB5C-4CBF-ABB1-6B3C1CBC022A.jpeg
    869.2 KB · Views: 39

TomS

ACCESS: Above Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2008
Messages
5,636
Reaction score
3,782
Which hangar at Palmdale?? That’s the the magic question AFAIK N-G only has the one lest they’re towed it / low loader en masse escort in the dead of night up the road to Edwards.

NG has done quite a bit of construction at Plant 42, apparently including a new hangar.

 

FighterJock

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Oct 29, 2007
Messages
2,331
Reaction score
1,225
Which hangar at Palmdale?? That’s the the magic question AFAIK N-G only has the one lest they’re towed it / low loader en masse escort in the dead of night up the road to Edwards.

NG has done quite a bit of construction at Plant 42, apparently including a new hangar.


Good news that NG has been building new hangers at Plant 42, looks like they are getting ready for full scale production whenever the order comes.
 

NeilChapman

Interested 3rd party
Joined
Dec 14, 2015
Messages
1,111
Reaction score
272

Thought experiment...

mass = $$$

Loyal wingman for B-21 probably doesn't need the same payload as B-21. Does it make sense to build a baby B-21 with maybe a 5000kg payload? Or do you build something smaller with a payload of ~2500kg?

And since you should be able to send these drones to a point in space, they dont need to leave with the bomber flight. They can be picked up wherever. The point being they won't require high subsonic speed. They can leave earlier or from a different location, be in the air already and assemble at a given location. Perhaps you also have the ability to deploy from odd locations; highways, small islands, even aircraft carriers if it makes sense. Smaller and lighter equals less runway required.

Sure, you could always just send another B-21. If the objective is ordinance to an objective for a price then perhaps you go smaller and slower. Maybe a less expensive engine with a higher TBO - reducing maintenance costs and allowing more time in the air. Perhaps you build it for hose-and-drogue refueling as well. A smaller airframe doesn't need high refueling rates and forward deployed perhaps it gets fuel regularly from C-130's and even MQ-25's.

If it's smaller, slower, and much cheaper, then perhaps you build more. Building more, by itself, creates additional cost reductions. F-35A is down to $80m.

How inexpensive can I build a drone with B-21 type stealth, a payload of 2,500kg and a range of 4,000 miles? MQ-25 is $150m per copy. If NG built it, perhaps half that? (Only partially tongue-in-cheek) But if I built several hundred of only slightly different variants then my costs come way down. Perhaps some have a focus for B-21 missions, others carry munitions for HAVCAP fighters for tankers and ISR platforms. Still others may originate additional munitions for F-35C carrier strikes from further behind the lines, extending the reach and punch of the CSG.

It's a bit fanciful. The one thing I agree with Stalin about is that 'quantity has a quality of its own.' Several hundred stealthy drones constantly ferrying munitions to battle like a conveyor belt would be a very welcome tool in my opinion.
 

Tool_Shed_Toker

ACCESS: Restricted
Joined
Feb 1, 2022
Messages
8
Reaction score
6

Thought experiment...

mass = $$$

Loyal wingman for B-21 probably doesn't need the same payload as B-21. Does it make sense to build a baby B-21 with maybe a 5000kg payload? Or do you build something smaller with a payload of ~2500kg?

And since you should be able to send these drones to a point in space, they dont need to leave with the bomber flight. They can be picked up wherever. The point being they won't require high subsonic speed. They can leave earlier or from a different location, be in the air already and assemble at a given location. Perhaps you also have the ability to deploy from odd locations; highways, small islands, even aircraft carriers if it makes sense. Smaller and lighter equals less runway required.

Sure, you could always just send another B-21. If the objective is ordinance to an objective for a price then perhaps you go smaller and slower. Maybe a less expensive engine with a higher TBO - reducing maintenance costs and allowing more time in the air. Perhaps you build it for hose-and-drogue refueling as well. A smaller airframe doesn't need high refueling rates and forward deployed perhaps it gets fuel regularly from C-130's and even MQ-25's.

If it's smaller, slower, and much cheaper, then perhaps you build more. Building more, by itself, creates additional cost reductions. F-35A is down to $80m.

How inexpensive can I build a drone with B-21 type stealth, a payload of 2,500kg and a range of 4,000 miles? MQ-25 is $150m per copy. If NG built it, perhaps half that? (Only partially tongue-in-cheek) But if I built several hundred of only slightly different variants then my costs come way down. Perhaps some have a focus for B-21 missions, others carry munitions for HAVCAP fighters for tankers and ISR platforms. Still others may originate additional munitions for F-35C carrier strikes from further behind the lines, extending the reach and punch of the CSG.

It's a bit fanciful. The one thing I agree with Stalin about is that 'quantity has a quality of its own.' Several hundred stealthy drones constantly ferrying munitions to battle like a conveyor belt would be a very welcome tool in my opinion.
Seems like it would also make a great companion for NGAD, acting as a missile truck. Perhaps take it a step further and develop a base platform that can fill a few niche uses; tanker, awacs etc.
 
Top