Program Office leads efforts to keep B-2 in flight
By Brian Brackens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center
/ Published September 30, 2020
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – With the ability to fly 6,000 nautical miles without refueling, travel at high subsonic speeds, and reach any part of the world within hours, the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit – the nation’s only stealth bomber – is often first to the fight.
With only 20 B-2s in the active fleet, a unique mission set and a high ops tempo, it’s a challenge keeping the aircraft flying and effective,
The task of ensuring the aircraft continues to dominate, and remain operational, falls to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-2 Program Office, which is leading a number of initiatives to upgrade and sustain the bomber.
“We are committed to keeping the B-2 flying and ensuring they remain effective for the crucial strategic defense, strategic deterrence mission set,” said Col. Cory Brown, the B-2 Program Manager. “We are fielding new software [on the plane], developing classified networks, making sure the low observable [stealth] nature of the plane remains effective, and addressing unscheduled maintenance drivers.”
One initiative the office is leading is the Next Gen Zonal Radar Program, which will provide a hand held, device to maintainers, to more effectively evaluate the low observable (LO) nature of materials on the aircraft, which is vital to ensuring the plane’s stealth capabilities. The device will be available in fiscal year 2021.
The program office also led a project to redesign a panel on the nose of the B-2, that improved the panel’s LO signature and saved the government more than $40 million.
Another project Brown’s team is working, is updating the monitors on the aircraft that allow pilots to plan missions. The request for proposal was released to Northrop Grumman on Aug. 31, and the goal is to retrofit the fleet no later than 2026.
As it leads efforts to upgrade the B-2, the program office is preparing the aircraft for future weapons.
“We are in the mist of fielding a current operational baseline that will bring B61-12 – next nuclear bomb – software capability to the platform,” said Brown. “We will continue to modernize the software baseline to be able to carry future weapons on the aircraft.”
Brown went on to talk about the importance of the B-2.
“It’s really hard to communicate to the average American citizen the strategic security umbrella and blanket that the B-2 provides,” said Brown. “It’s one leg of a nuclear triad that you would have a hard time arguing that it is not one of the reasons we’ve had many years of peace where two great nations haven’t come together and collided, with a loss of life on a huge magnitude. It’s because you have capabilities like the B-2 to ensure that nobody thinks that the United States doesn’t have the will or the way to protect its interests.”