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Air Force reactivates squadron for B-21 bomber testing

The 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base has been reactivated by the U.S. Air Force for flight and ground testing of the next-generation bomber, the B-21 Raider.

By Ed Adamczyk
Air Force reactivates squadron for B-21 bomber testing
Edwards AFB, Calif., has been the site, since 1989, for testing and development of the U.S. Air Force's B-2 bomber, pictured. The 420th Flight Test Squadron at the base was reactivated last week to test the new B-21 Raider bomber. Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman

Oct. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force reactivated its 420th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to plan and analyze flight and ground testing of the new B-21 Raider bomber.

The squadron was organized under the 412th Test Wing at the base, and a ceremony marking the occasion was held on Oct. 4, the Air Force announced on Wednesday.

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The first B-21 Raider bomber, the next-generation replacement for the B-1 and B-2 aircraft, is under development at Northrop Grumman facilities in nearby Palmdale, Calif.

"The first flight of the Raider will take it from Palmdale to Edwards AFB, where the legacy of excellence will continue with the reactivation of the 420th Flight Test Squadron," Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan said in a statement.

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That legacy includes the first flight of the B-2 Spirit bomber, which left Palmdale in 1989 and arrived at Edwards Air Force Base 112 minutes later for testing.

The wing-shaped plane is planned as the next long-range, stealth strategic bomber for the U.S. Air Force, capable of delivering conventional and thermonuclear weapons. The branch plans to eventually have 100 of the new bombers.

In 2018, the Air Force selected Dyess Air Force Base on Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, all current bomber bases, as sites under consideration to host the B-21.

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The B-21 is expected to enter service by 2025, and will replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit over time. The new bomber's first operational location -- including its formal training unit -- will be based at Ellsworth, the Air Force said in March.

A previous version of this article erroneously stated the B-21 was being developed by Lockheed Martin. It is a Northrop Grumman project.

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