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Old 11-13-2017, 09:32am   #1 (permalink)
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Default assembly plant ramping up to build Northrop's B-21 bomber

A once-empty parking lot at Northrop Grumman Corp.’s top secret aircraft plant in Palmdale is now jammed with cars that pour in during the predawn hours.

More than a thousand new employees are working for the time being in rows of temporary trailers, a dozen tan-colored tents and a vast assembly hangar at the desert site near the edge of urban Los Angeles County.

It is here that Northrop is building the Air Force’s new B-21 bomber, a stealthy bat-winged jet that is being designed to slip behind any adversary’s air defense system and deliver devastating airstrikes for decades to come. The Pentagon is aiming to buy 100 of the bombers by the mid-2030s for at least $80 billion, though the exact amount is classified.

Northrop won the bomber contract in 2015, but the pace of activity is ramping up sharply under an Air Force budget that has reached $2 billion for this fiscal year.

Construction crews are getting ready to add 1 million square feet to the plant, a 50% increase over what is already a huge facility that is protected by razor wire-topped fences, electronic sensors and military air space surveillance, according to interviews and government documents.

B21 bomber — dubbed the “Raider” — production could run for two decades if it does not encounter technical or political setbacks. But it will be competing with other nuclear and nonnuclear modernization programs for limited defense funds — a cutthroat political contest.

Northrop has 3,000 employees at the Palmdale plant and is still hiring at a rapid clip. By late 2019, the operation will have 5,200 employees at the site, Kevin Mitchell, deputy vice president of global operations, recently told a Lancaster Chamber of Commerce meeting.

The Palmdale factory is part of the Air Force’s massive Plant 42 operation, where some of the nation’s most secret warplanes have been built, including Northrop’s flying wing B-2 bomber.

The B-21 program is not just secret but “special access,” setting a much higher bar on who can get a clearance and how data are stored, among much else. An executive conference room at the plant is actually a high security windowless vault, where a massive conference table is surrounded by three dozen leather chairs and the walls are adorned with large photographs of the company’s long line of weapons. No cellphones are allowed in the room.

Heavy bombers, particularly those capable of carrying nuclear weapons, have been among the most controversial military projects in U.S. history. When the B-1 bomber was rolled out, pacifists attempted to throw themselves under its wheels. The Northrop B-2 stealth bomber gave Congress sticker shock with its $1-billion-per-plane manufacturing cost.

the plane released by the Air Force seems to resemble the company’s B-2 bomber, but Donovan and others say the new plane is not a derivative but a “clean sheet” design. It is supposed to carry nuclear weapons, though the Air Force does not plan to certify it for such missions until two years after it first becomes operational.

The plane will be operated either by an onboard crew or autonomously, the report said. Without a crew, the bomber could linger much longer over targets, requiring fewer sorties and holding an enemy hostage much longer. Unlike the B-2, it is planned as part of a “family of systems,” implying that it would fly with other aircraft or weapons systems, though government officials declined to say anything about it.

The bomber is expected to enter combat service by 2025.

Additionally it was revealed that the Air Force is planning to acquire a new long-range fighter that would accompany the B-21 Raider deep into enemy territory. The new fighter, of which few details are known, would help the bomber survive enemy air defenses. The new fighter, known as "Penetrating Counter-Air" (PCA) was officially revealed during the Air Force Association's 2016 annual conference. Also announced that a program to develop a new stealth tanker aircraft called "KC-Z" for future refueling missions is underway.

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Old 11-13-2017, 09:49am   #2 (permalink)
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That is one wicked cool aircraft.
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Old 11-13-2017, 10:24am   #3 (permalink)
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Old 11-13-2017, 06:37pm   #4 (permalink)
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Pretty cool.
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Old 11-13-2017, 06:52pm   #5 (permalink)
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LOVE that concept, and would greatly LOVE/APPRECIATE the passenger space in one....BUT

I still think sneaky submarines and their missiles are what can alleviate most enemies worth mentioning....

NOT that airframe research/dev is not necessary....
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Old 11-13-2017, 06:58pm   #6 (permalink)
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I know the picture showed a windscreen, but my money goes to unmanned.
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Old 11-13-2017, 08:32pm   #7 (permalink)
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Old 11-14-2017, 11:21am   #8 (permalink)
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My ex-father in law was a Program Manager for the B-2. A lot of the work was done at the old Pico Rivera plant in Los Angeles. Palmdale was mostly flight test. It's good to see some major aircraft work coming back to Palmdale/Edwards AFB.

"Special Access" is like an upgarde to a Secret Clearance. It's more commonly referred to as a "Secret SAR". I held one for about 7 years. When the B-2 was developed, it was primarily a Top Secret level program. Top Secret is costly and a pain in the ass.

It should also be noted that the "$1 Billion per copy" figure is a bit misleading. The Air Force originally wanted to procure 125 or so planes. Then Washington kept cutting the numbers until they got down to...15. Add that to inflation, and you can see how the cost skyrocketed.
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Old 11-17-2017, 03:00pm   #9 (permalink)
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Now would be a good time to buy Northrop Grumman Corporation stock (NOC).
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