Forget the F/A-18 Super Hornet: A B-2 Spirit paired with Massive Ordnance Penetrator would likely get the job done in Top Gun: Maverick. Here’s how.

New B-2 integrated airborne mission transfer system’s Game-changing tech Lets the Spirit Update Mission Parameters ‘In Seconds’

By Dario Leone
Aug 10 2023
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B-2 Spirit update

Northrop Grumman in partnership with the US Air Force (USAF) successfully completed an integrated airborne mission transfer (IAMT) demonstration with the B-2 Spirit at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) as part of the ongoing modernization efforts incorporating digital engineering.

IAMT delivers an advanced capability that enables the B-2 to complete a digital, machine-to-machine transfer of new missions received in flight directly into the aircraft. IAMT is part of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Collaborative Combat Communication (B2C3) Spiral 1 program that digitally enhances the B-2’s communications capabilities in today’s battlespace.

“We are providing the B-2 with the capabilities to communicate and operate in advanced battle management systems and the joint all-domain command and control environment, keeping B-2 ahead of evolving threats,” said Nikki Kodama, vice president and B-2 program manager, Northrop Grumman, in a company news release. “The integration of this digital software with our weapon system will further enhance the connectivity and survivability in highly contested environments as part of our ongoing modernization effort.”

Game-changing tech Lets the Spirit Update Mission Parameters ‘In Seconds’

The demonstration started on Jul. 18 and included approximately 50 mission transfers during a two-day period in partnership with the Air Force. Aircraft vehicle 1086, the Spirit of Kitty Hawk, was configured with Northrop Grumman’s Multi Mission Domain (MMD) architecture. MMD is an open mission system architecture for the B-2 that allows rapid and affordable fielding of modern mission capabilities. The mission transfers utilized MMD to integrate with the B-2 Adaptable Communications Suite (ACS).

In the demonstration, the aircrew received an incoming transmission from the ACS ground station, which loaded the mission directly through MMD interfaces to the B-2 Disk Drive Unit.

With the way the rest of the B-2 fleet is configured, aircrews have to manually transfer mission updates from the ACS. In contrast, the new technology “will allow direct transfer to the disk drive unit in seconds,” a Northrop spokesperson told Air & Space Forces Magazine.

B-2 flight crews can now focus more on mission execution in today’s dynamic battlespace thanks to progressive digital technology.

The B-2

The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. The Spirit brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses.

The B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets.

The B-2 only recently returned to the skies in May, after a roughly six-month safety pause following a mishap in December. In July, the bomber made its first appearance in a major exercise since the pause, flying in Alaska.

Despite its incredible capabilities, the B-2 (like the B-1 Lancer) will be replaced by the B-21 Raider that the USAF is developing. Modified B-52s will remain in service and along with the B-21 will form a two-bomber fleet of B-21s and updated B-52s.

In 2019, the plan was for the B-2 and B-1 to retire in 2031 and 2032, respectively. But last year Lt. Gen. David S. Nahom told that those dates depend on progress with the B-21, and pledged they will not retire until they “shake hands” with the B-21s that replace them.

Whiteman Celebrates 30th Anniversary of B-2 Spirit’s First Flight

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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