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Global Combat Power
The B-2 stealth bomber on a test mission from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The polar flight helped ensure that the B-2 maintains its global combat power capability in all environments with new computers for future growth and sustained contributions to the greater Air Force mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)
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 B-2 Spirit
Air Force modernization takes B-2 to North Pole

Posted 11/2/2011   Updated 11/2/2011 Email story   Print story


by Kate Blais
95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/2/2011 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.  -- Taking off from Edwards Oct. 27, the B-2 Spirit travelled to the top of the world and back again on a mission to test the aircraft's hardware and software upgrades, endurance and performance at extremely high latitudes.

The 18-plus hour mission to the North Pole and back consisted of developmental and operational test points to prove that the B-2's software upgrades -- which include new communication and new navigation equipment -- still allow the B-2 to operate effectively anywhere in the world.

Although the B-2 has been to the North Pole in simulated tests, this is the first time the aircraft has physically travelled there, making a milestone in B-2 testing.

"A goal of the test force is to prevent a situation where an aircraft experiences an anomaly with a new system for the first time in an operational mission," said Lt. Col. Hans Miller, 419th Flight Test Squadron commander. "This flight to the North Pole could reveal data and lessons that were not seen in a lab or simulated environment."

The operational portion of this mission consisted of releasing four unguided BDU-38 bombs over the Precision Impact Range Area at Edwards after more than 18 hours of flight. According to Maj. Michael Deaver, 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron, B-2 Extremely High Frequency Test director, one of the biggest objectives was to make sure that the aircraft knew where it was, and that it could get to a weapons release point.

To get to that point, extensive coordination throughout the 419 FLTS, Bomber Combined Task Force and other Edwards assets, as well as outside support including the Department of State, was necessary for a successful mission.

"Support from the Air Force Flight Test Center allowed us to use the Speckled Trout [412 FLTS] as a resource, which served as an airborne control room and communication hub," said Jeremiah Farinella, 419 FLTS test conductor and operations engineer. "That allowed us to troubleshoot some issues that we saw when we were airborne and provided us communication back to Edwards, which was essential to our success and allowed the pilots to stay focused on the mission."

Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., provided a KC-135 tanker aircraft for aerial refueling support. The tanker refueled the B-2 over Alberta, Canada, to ensure that the B-2 could complete the endurance portion [of the mission] to the North Pole and then back to Edwards, said Farinella.

The B-2 was further supported with fuel from a second KC-135 from Edwards in the R-2508 Isabella Aerial Refueling Track, which helped ensure that the B-2 could complete the operational portion of the Polar mission.

"We had an incredible team that went with us, lessened our workload greatly and contributed to the fact that we were able to get up there and back safely and really lowered the risk of the mission for us," said Maj. Andrew Murphy, 419 FLTS, B-2 experimental test pilot.

Flight tests help find problems early on so that they can be fixed before aircraft end up in the field, continued Murphy.

"The warfighter needs to know where they can and can't go," he said. "Essentially, we've proven the fact that they can get up into those [high] latitudes safely and effectively. That previously was a question mark."

At Edwards, ensuring that the B-2 maintains its legacy capabilities contributes to the greater Air Force mission.

"It's a very good cross-check to ensure that we maintain global vigilance and can strike any target in the world at any time, providing overall global combat power," Farinella said.

12/22/2011 12:38:52 PM ET
good job Jeremiah its aircraft engineers like yourself ythat makes THE BEST MILITARY AIR SUPERIORITY in the WORLD... Im proud of you Jeremiah Farinella and your Mother is looking down at you from Heaven with THE BIGGEST BRIGHTEST SMILE EVER...
Melinda Alston, HelendaleCalifornia
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