A B-2 bomber.

Northrop Grumman has successfully completed the preliminary design review (PDR) of a new software upgrade for the US Air Force’s (USAF) B-2 Spirit stealth bomber aircraft at its B-2 facility in Oklahoma City, US.

A part of USAF’s flexible strike phase 1 programme, the software upgrade represents the first step in a process that will help enhance the bomber’s mission capabilities and lower its maintenance costs.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president and B-2 programme manager Dave Mazur said that the B-2 has several stand-alone programmes, each managing a specific type of mission.

"We’re replacing that software with a single programme that can manage all of those mission types," Mazur said.

The PDR was an opportunity for the company to demonstrate to USAF that it understands the required interactions between the aircraft and its weapon systems, and also that the new software will correctly manage those interactions.

"The software upgrade represents the first step in a process that will help enhance the bomber’s mission capabilities and lower its maintenance costs."

As part of the phase 1 programme, Northrop intends to replace multiple operational flight programmes (OFP) and the embedded software that enables B-2 to accurately communicate with the equipment that holds and dispenses its weapons, with a single OFP.

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The programme is claimed to be the first B-2 modernisation effort to leverage the enhanced communications infrastructure Northrop has created for the first increment of the B-2 extremely high-frequency (EHF) satellite communications programme.

Specific improvements include faster processors, a fibre-optic network and increased onboard data storage, which together are expected to help the bomber manage more information at higher speeds.

Powered by four General Electric F118-GE-100 non-afterburning turbofan engines, the B-2 Spirit is a low-observable, strategic, long-range, heavy bomber designed to penetrate complex air-defence shields and deploy conventional and nuclear weapons.

Reported to be the flagship of the US Air Force’s long-range strike arsenal, the aircraft can fly for more than 6,000nm without refuelling and more than 10,000nm with just one aerial refuelling, which gives it the ability to reach any point on the globe within hours.

Image: A USAF’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber aircraft in flight. Photo: courtesy of Louis Waweru.

Defence Technology