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Posted: 6/18/2007 1:36:11 PM EDT
Upgrading Big Stealth: B-2 Improvements Continue

Defense Industry Daily

Posted 18-Jun-2007 09:34

"USA's B-2 Bombers Leading the Way in Contracting for Availability"
(tinyurl.com/3as4ar) described the new support arrangements for
the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which has historically had availability
rates that hovered around 50%. Since there are only 21 of these aircraft
in existence, that simple logistics change is likely to have major
consequences for American power projection capabilities.

Alongside its new maintenance arrangements, the U.S. government is also
implementing aircraft upgrades (tinyurl.com/2qk55o) to these rare
and expensive systems...

June 11/07: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces
(tinyurl.com/3c5tlc) that has begun work on a 62-month, $171
million system development and demonstration (SDD) contract for the
first increment of a new extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite
communications system for the U.S. Air Force's B-2 stealth bomber.

Under the planned three-increment upgrade program, the new EHF SATCOM
system will eventually allow the B-2 to send and receive battlefield
information up to 100 times faster than its current ultra-high frequency
(UHF) system and give it full connectivity to the USA's Global
Information Grid, including "both current and future secure military
satellite communications networks" (tinyurl.com/dbtch). The
authority to proceed with the SDD phase follows the Air Force's
Milestone B decision in February 2007 authorizing Northrop Grumman to
proceed with this first increment of the EHF upgrade program.

"During Increment I, the Northrop Grumman-led team will replace the
B-2's current flight management computers with a single, integrated
processing unit developed by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration. The
contract will also involve development of the fiber optic network that
will support high speed data transfers to, from, and within the
aircraft; and delivery of a disk drive unit from Honeywell Defense and
Space that will facilitate future transfer of EHF data onto and off of
the B-2.

Increment II of the B-2 EHF program will give the aircraft the ability
to send and receive information at EHF frequencies, while Increment III
will fully integrate the new EHF communications capabilities into the
aircraft's controls and displays."

Other recent or current B-2 modernization programs include:
 -- A smart bomb rack assembly that allows the aircraft to deliver 80
independently-targeted, 500-pound smart weapons, as opposed to capacity
for just 16 before the upgrade. Given the accuracy of JDAM-type weapons
(tinyurl.com/2t33wt), an upgraded B-52 now has the capability to
hit 80 different targets throughout its 6000 nautical mile unrefueled
range;

 -- Application of a specially-formulated surface coating that has
significantly reduced B-2 maintenance time and improved operational
readiness [see full DID coverage (tinyurl.com/2v8b9l)];

 -- Installation of MIDS/Link 16 capabilities
(tinyurl.com/373qlm).

 -- Installation of an advanced electronically scanned array (AESA)
radar (tinyurl.com/35betk) designed to provide more advanced
ground and aerial radar imaging capabilities and enable future growth in
radar imaging and communications bandwidth.
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