Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the critical design review (CDR) of a key weapons management software upgrade for the US Air Force's (USAF) B-2 stealth bomber.
The USAF's CDR approval was carried out as part of the service's Flexible Strike Phase I programme. It authorises the company to start developing and integrating the new software and hardware required for the upgrade.
US Air Force B-2 system programme manager colonel Robert Strasser said: "The Flexible Strike software upgrade lays the foundation for future system enhancements, including the ability to carry multiple weapon types.
"This 'mixed loads' capability will ensure maximum strategic nuclear and conventional strike capability."
The CDR is part of a $102m contract received by Northrop that covers the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) portion of the Flexible Strike Phase I programme.
The company is the USAF prime contractor for the B-2 stealth bomber.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice-president and B-2 programme manager Dave Mazur said: "The Flexible Strike software upgrade programme will give the B-2 a simpler, more powerful way to manage communications with its weapon systems.
"It will also reduce B-2 maintenance costs, increase mission flexibility and increase aircraft reliability."
Currently, the B-2 bomber uses operational flight programme (OFP) in order to maintain communication between the jet and the hardware.
Northrop is now replacing several mission-specific OFPs with a single OFP that is capable of managing all of the B-2's weapons carriage devices.
Image: A US Air Force B-2 Spirit flying over the Pacific Ocean. Photo: courtesy of Staff Sgt Bennie J Davis III.