USAF reactivates 420th Flight Test Squadron for B-21

The US Air Force (USAF) has reactivated the 420th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), California, following a ceremony held on October 4.

The squadron has been reactivated to support the development of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider, the USAF's future strategic stealth bomber under its Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRSB) programme.

The B-21 is expected to enter service in 2025 and the 420th FLTS will deal with the planning and testing of the bomber, including providing analysis, alongside ground and flight testing once a prototype is rolled out. 

B-21 Raider
An artist's rendering of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider. US Air Force

The 420th FLTS is organised under the 412th Test Wing, headquartered at the Air Force Test Center, located at Edwards AFB. It will work alongside the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office which is also based there, working together to deliver an "asymmetric capability" to the platform, as per the press release.

The first flight for the new bomber has also been planned, with Acting-Secretary of the Air Force, Matthew Donovan confirming that it will fly from "Palmdale to Edwards AFB, where the legacy of excellence will continue with the reactivation of the 420th Flight Test Squadron.”

The B-21 Raider is taking a similar path to its predecessor, the Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit, which also made its first flight from Plant 42 of the company's production facility in Palmdale, California, to Edwards AFB, a trip which lasted for 112 minutes. The B-2 Spirit was also tested and developed by the 420th FLTS.