The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to increase the operational availability of B-2 stealth bombers by one full jet and reduce fleet sustainment costs under a new contract modification awarded to B-2 prime contractor Northrop Grumman in April.
Under this contract, Northrop is responsible to offer each B-2 a major, end-to-end overhaul, called programmed depot maintenance (PDM), once in every nine years. Currently, PDM for each jet takes place once every seven years.
The PDM process will cover a comprehensive restoration of the jet’s exterior surfaces.
Work under the contract will be performed by Northrop’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in Palmdale, US.
Wright Patterson AFB Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Fighters and Bombers programme executive officer brigadier general Eric Fick said: "This new approach to B-2 maintenance is a win-win for the Air Force and the nation.
"It will enhance the jet’s readiness to conduct global security missions, and is expected to save taxpayers about $900m in maintenance costs over the life of the fleet."
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The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is a low-observable, strategic, long-range, heavy bomber designed to penetrate complex air-defence shields, attack heavily defended targets, and deploy conventional and nuclear weapons on the battlefield.
In May, Northrop successfully completed the critical design review (CDR) of a key weapons management software upgrade for the USAF’s B-2.
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 one programme.
The USAF’s CDR approval was carried out as part of the service’s flexible strike phase one programme and it authorised Northrop to start developing and integrating the new software and hardware required for the upgrade.
Image: B-2 Spirit of Ohio lifts off from US Air Force Plant 42 for one of its final pre-delivery flight tests. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corporation.