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B-21 Raider awarded for outstanding defence achievement

written by Robert Dougherty | March 27, 2024

The B-21 Raider strategic bomber has been recognised with a Grand Laureate award for outstanding achievement in the international defence industry.

The Northrop Grumman bomber was selected from a collection of defence innovations, including the THOR-ER ramjet missile, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Saab Gripen E fighter jet, as part of the 66th Annual Laureate Awards, hosted by Aviation Week Network at the National Building Museum in Washington DC on 14 March.

Award categories include commercial aviation, defence, space, business aviation and MRO.

Under the defence category, the US Air Force’s B-21 Raider bomber, which flew for the first time last November and begins low-rate production of the first new US bomber in three decades, was selected for the honour ahead of defence category winners including Nammo’s THOR-ER (Tactical High-speed Offensive Ramjet for Extended Range) currently in testing with the US Naval Air Warfare Center, the latest variation Saab Gripen E fighter jet handed over to Sweden in late 2023, and the swift rise of American aerospace and defence company Sierra Nevada Corporation.


“On behalf of the entire nationwide B-21 Raider team, Northrop Grumman is honoured to receive this prestigious award,” according to Tom Jones, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems corporate vice-president and president.

“The Grand Laureate represents the pioneering spirit, innovative technology, and trailblazing approach to contract management that has brought the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft to life.”

The aircraft is currently undergoing a robust flight test campaign executed by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California and reportedly continues to meet US Department of Defense technical, schedule, and affordability requirements.

The in-service aircraft is expected to act as the backbone of America’s bomber fleet with significant stealth technology, capability for conventional and nuclear payloads, and ability to carry stand-off and direct attack munitions.

Northrop Grumman also recently announced plans to expand its Naval Industrial Reserve Ordnance Plant at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory (ABL) in West Virginia, US, to meet the growing demand of solid rocket motors and warheads.

The company was recently awarded a $178 million contract from Naval Sea Systems Command to support the expansion.

“The Navy’s decision to entrust Northrop Grumman with expansion operations at ABL in support of critical missile components such as rocket motors, warheads and fuses, will bolster critical national security infrastructure,” according to Frank DeMauro, Northrop Grumman weapon systems sector vice-president and general manager.

“The investments we’re making and our mature production capabilities, will allow us to double our energetics capacity by fall of 2026, meeting recent customer demand and maintaining our signature commitment to quality.”

Firefly Aerospace and Millennium Space Systems, Indian space research organization Chandrayaan-3, Lockheed Martin’s Osiris Rex, SpaceX’s Starlink, and Virgin Galactic’s Mike Moses were recognised for achievement in the space category of the 66th Annual Laureate Awards.

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Comment (1)

  • Greg Timbs


    And Australia rejects the offer to purchase… even though it suits perfectly the stated deep strike, defence-at-distance goals of the Defence Capability Review, with – unlike the JSF – long unrefuelled range eliminating risk to air-to-air refuellers; is capable of launching standoff range missiles to further increase strike ranges; fills the long-standing gap left by retired F-111 bombers; and when compared to an on-the-never-never AUKUS sub, would arrive sooner, be capable of a higher operational tempo over a broader operational area, and we’d get a whole squadron for a price equivalent to just one AUKUS submarine.
    That assumes that for the first time in history the AUKUS subs – a major defence acquisition planned for acquisition in what, 15 years? – actually makes deadline and budget, whereas the B-21 is already in production, and increasing the manufacturers order list usually brings down the unit cost for all buyers.

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