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Plant 42 gears up “Spirit of Pennsylvania” for next mission

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

The “Spirit of Pennsylvania” B-2 stealth bomber will soon call Edwards Air Force Base, California, its new home, as it becomes the 412th Test Wing’s test platform for B-2 flight testing.

The “Spirit of Pennsylvania” began its journey to Edwards in 2017, when the aircraft returned home to Unites States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, where it was originally built, to serve as a test jet and undergo programmed depot maintenance (PDM) at Northrop Grumman.

“The B-2 PDM cycle is an end-to-end overhaul that ensures each B-2 is mission ready to serve the needs of the U.S. Air Force,” said Benjamin Davies, vice president and B-2 program manager, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. “Our team dedicated countless hours to the Spirit of Pennsylvania and we are thrilled to deliver it to our partners at Edwards Air Force Base where it will support their test mission in our local skies for years to come.”

B-2s undergo PDM every nine years, and this was the Pennsylvania’s third PDM cycle. During its PDM, the aircraft received a complete restoration of its airframe and underwent exhaustive inspections of all electrical and mechanical systems. A large part of the statement of work performed by Northrop Grumman was the restoration of the Low Observable System on the aircraft that included a complete removal and re-application of its radar-evading materials.  

The historic Plant 42 is the birthplace of all the Air Force’s B-2 Spirits, and where the first-ever Spirit conducted its maiden flight more than 30 years ago on July 17, 1989. It is also where they all conduct PDM services under the auspices of the aircraft’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman.

Following its PDM, the aircraft will then be reassigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron. As a member of the Global Power Combined Test Force, the Spirit of Pennsylvania will be the base’s new test platform for B-2 flight testing.

Besides the B-2 Spirit, the Global Power CTF utilizes the two other bombers in the Air Force inventory: the B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress. The CTF is the lead organization in flight testing avionics, mechanical, weapons and electronic warfare upgrades to the bomber fleet.