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Key Phase Of New B-2 Bomber Communication System To Begin

The B-2's new EHF Satcom system is the latest in a series of modernization programs that Northrop Grumman and its subcontractors have undertaken with the Air Force to ensure that the aircraft remains fully capable against evolving threats.
by Staff Writers
El Segundo CA (SPX) Mar 15, 2007
The U.S. Air Force has approved Northrop Grumman's plan to begin formal development of a new satellite communication system for the B-2 stealth bomber that will eventually allow the aircraft to send and receive battlefield information up to 100 times faster than today.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the B-2, the flagship of the nation's arsenal of long-range strike aircraft.

The Milestone B decision by the Air Force's deputy secretary for acquisition clears the way for Northrop Grumman to undertake the system development and demonstration phase of the first increment of an extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications program for the B-2.

The first increment of that program will replace the B-2's current flight management computers with a single, integrated processing unit developed by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, Owego, NY. The next increment will give the aircraft the ability to send and receive information at EHF frequencies, while the final increment will fully integrate the new EHF communications capabilities into the aircraft's controls and displays. The B-2's current satellite communications system operates at ultra high frequencies (UHF).

"Upgrading the B-2's satellite communications capabilities from UHF to EHF will be like going from a dial-up Internet connection to broadband," said Dave Mazur, vice president of long range strike for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "It will allow the aircraft to use both current and future military satellite communications networks to share battlefield information with allied commanders around the world."

The EHF Satcom system will also allow the B-2 to connect easily to the U.S. Department of Defense's Global Information Grid (GIG), a worldwide network of information systems, processes and personnel involved in collecting, storing, managing and disseminating information on demand to warfighters, policy makers and military support personnel. GIG is the physical manifestation of the Defense Department's doctrine of network-centric warfare.

The B-2's new EHF Satcom system is the latest in a series of modernization programs that Northrop Grumman and its subcontractors have undertaken with the Air Force to ensure that the aircraft remains fully capable against evolving threats. Other recent or current B-2 modernization programs include:

+ A "smart" bomb rack assembly that allows the aircraft to deliver 80 independently targeted, 500-lb. smart weapons, five times more than previously;

+ Application of a specially formulated surface coating that has significantly reduced B-2 maintenance time and improved operational readiness;

+ Installation of a line-of-sight tactical communications system that improves B-2 pilots' ability to share critical targeting and threat information and maintain real-time awareness of the battlespace; and

+ Installation of an advanced electronically scanned array antenna that could enable more advanced imaging capabilities in the future.

The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the most survivable aircraft in the world. It remains the only long-range, large-payload aircraft that can penetrate deeply into protected airspace.

In concert with the Air Force's air superiority fleet, which provides airspace control, and the Air Force's tanker fleet, which enables global mobility, the B-2 helps ensure an effective U.S. response to threats anywhere in the world.

It can fly more than 6,000 nautical miles unrefueled and more than 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to reach any point on the globe within hours.

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