A U.S. Air Force official told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that the new B-21 bomber has completed its preliminary design review and that he was "comfortable" with the progress made by builder Northrop Grumman Corp.
The bomber is now on its way to critical design review, said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr., the military deputy of the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.
Citing the "nature of the work," Bunch declined to go into further detail about how the Air Force planned to spend the $2.3 billion it requested for the bomber program for fiscal year 2019 when asked by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). However, he said the program was "continuing engineering manufacturing development" and "some of those risk reduction areas."
The first set of software for the platform has been delivered, and the program is getting "set up" for the next set of software to come in, Bunch told the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Airland during a hearing about Air Force modernization efforts.
"We're making everything ready to begin our test program in the future," he said. "We're making good progress. I'm comfortable today with where we're at, and the progress that Northrop Grumman is making on the program."
Northrop Grumman, which won the bomber contract in 2015, is building the aircraft at its plant in Palmdale. The plant also churns out the Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance drone for the Air Force, the closely related Triton drone for the Navy and the center fuselage for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The defense giant has been hiring at a rapid pace in Palmdale and expects to have 5,200 employees at the site by late 2019.