Air Force testing prototype shelters for B-21 Raider

The first flight of the B-21 Raider, pictured in an Air Force rendering, is expected sometime in 2022, with the aircraft eventually replacing the B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers. Photo Illustration courtesy Northrop Grumman/U.S. Air Force

March 5 (UPI) — Air Force Global Strike Command and the B-21 Program Office are testing various prototype shelters to identify the most effective and affordable designs for the B-21 Raider, the Air Force announced this week.

The Air Force is looking to determine which type of shelter designs would be most effective and affordable for use at the B-21’s three Main Operating Bases, the depot and at forward operating locations.

The branch has already installed a temporary prototype Environmental Protection Shelter at South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base, which was selected two years ago as the first location for the B-21.

“Environmental Protection Shelters help extend the life of the aircraft and reduce required maintenance by limiting UV exposure, limiting snow accumulation and melt, and limiting icing/de-icing operations experienced by the aircraft over time,” Col. Derek Oakley, AFGSC’s B-21 Integration and System Management Office director, said Wednesday.

“These shelters also help us generate sorties more quickly by eliminating the need to always have to move aircraft in and out of hangars,” Oakley said.

Oakley said officials will collect “a few years of data” on the shelters and incorporate those findings into the final shelter design.

He also noted that the Environmental Protection Shelters will complement, not replace, maintenance hangars at each operating base.

“From the outset, we codified robust sustainability and maintainability requirements, and continue to keep those at the forefront throughout the design and development phase of the B-21 Raider program,” said Col. Jason Voorheis, B-21 System Program director and acquisition lead for the bomber program within the Department of the Air Force RCO.

“Throughout the engineering and manufacturing development phase, sustainment and maintenance personnel have been integrated into every design decision we make to ensure technical solutions do not inadvertently result in sub-optimal sustainment outcomes once the weapon system is fielded,” Voorheis said.

Last month the Air Force announced plans to begin divesting the B-1 bomber in order to make room for the B-21, which is intended to eventually replace the B-1, as well as the B-2 and B-52.

The first B-21 flight is anticipated in mid-2022.


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