A Very Big Challenge

Adding capability to the B-2 bomber such that it will be able to communicate using the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite will be “a very big challenge,” Northrop Grumman B-2 upgrade manager Dave Mazur told reporters Tuesday. To install the dorsal radomes, which will have steerable antennas within, engineers will have to cut into the top of the B-2’s spine and remove major structural members that “were never meant to be” removed, Mazur said. The aircraft will have to be mounted carefully on struts to keep it together and true while the work is done. After the antennas are installed, the weakened spars will have to be strengthened using stiffeners, and transparencies will have to be installed that maintain the B-2’s stealthy outer mold line. It will be tricky, Mazur said. The upgrade will be part of an omnibus effort to improve the B-2’s computers, processors, radar, and surfaces with state-of-the-art gear. The processors haven’t been changed out since the B-2 was new, and their 286 technology is long out of production and obsolete.