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.