Program to make B-2 Spirit stealthier delayed to 2024

Upgrade to make B-2 Spirit stealthier delayed to 2024

By Dario Leone
Sep 30 2018
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The B-2 Defensive Management System Modernization program is facing delays. Instead, of delivering the end product in 2022, the USAF now estimates the program could only be ready by March 2024

The B-2 Defensive Management System Modernization (B-2 DMS-M) program is facing delays, Bloomberg reports. Instead, of delivering the end product in 2022, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) now estimates the program could only be ready by March 2024.

Noteworthy the B-2 DMS-M upgrades include a digital electronic support measures (ESM) subsystem, new ESM antennas, and modern display processing units to improve threat radar detection, identification, and avoidance capabilities.

Moreover the budget projections for the program has increased from $2.68 billion to $3.07 billion.

An effective system is “essential for a deep-penetrating strike capability,” Representative Rob Wittman, chairman of the House Armed Services panel that oversees the program, said in an email. “Unfortunately, this program has promised a lot but delivered a little. This latest schedule delay is especially problematic” so “my subcommittee will carefully assess this latest cost and schedule breach to ensure taxpayer resources are being used wisely.”

Northrop Grumman, the original B-2 contractor, is also the prime contractor on the coming B-21 bomber, so its performance has drawn particular Pentagon scrutiny.

Last June Ellen Lord, the Defense Department’s chief weapons buyer, expressed her concern: in a Jun. 20 memo in fact, her staff said Northrop’s performance “has been substandard” and that “it is unclear if the Air Force can afford this program, which has seen substantial cost and schedule growth” since the first major development contract in 2016.

Lord’s intention “is to ensure that the program is fully funded” in the next budget cycle and “well-positioned for success before” it’s turned over for Air Force oversight, her spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Andrews, said.

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. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.

The B-2’s low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2’s composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its “stealthiness.”Program to make B-2 Spirit stealthier delayed to 2024

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

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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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