Installation has begun on the B-2 stealth bomber by Northrop as part of the USAF’s B-2 extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications programme.

The hardware will allow the jet to send and receive battlefield information up to 100 times faster than its current satellite communications system.

The first kit of EHF increment 1 hardware will include a new integrated processing unit (IPU) developed by Lockheed, replacing up to a dozen current stand-alone avionics computers on the B-2.

Increment 1 hardware will also include a new disk drive unit developed by Honeywell Defense and Space Electronic Systems, Plymouth, which will enable transfer of EHF data onto and off of the B-2.

It will also include a network of fibre-optic cable to support the high-speed data transfers within the aircraft.

The USAF’s 702nd Aeronautical Systems Group Commander Col. Kevin Harms said EHF Increment 1 puts in place the high speed data handling infrastructure the B-2 will need to perform its most advanced communications and weapons delivery missions in the future.

B-2 is the only combat-proven stealth platform in the current US inventory that includes stealth, long range, large payload and precision weapons in a single platform.

It can fly 6,000nm without refuelling or 10,000nm with just one aerial refuelling, and can reach any point on the globe within hours.

Increment 2 will involve the installation of a new communications terminal and new antennas that will allow the B-2 to transmit and receive information securely via satellite.

Increment 3 will integrate the B-2 into the US Department of Defense’s global information grid.