Air Force, Northrop to increase B-2 fleet availability

Northrop Grumman is revamping the maintenance schedule for the B-2 Spirit fleet with the goal to increase the availability of the fleet by one full aircraft and reduce fleet sustainment costs, the company announced Sept. 14. The contract modification—signed in April but announced Sept. 14 on the first day of ASC15—will give each bomber a complete overhaul once every nine years. Currently, each B-2 undergoes the process, called programmed depot maintenance, every seven years. The process includes a restoration of the jet’s exterior stealth surfaces at Northrop’s Palmdale, Calif., facility. By extending the time between restorations, the Air Force expects to save about $900 million over the fleet’s total life. Northrop also expects to reduce the total time of the restoration to 365 days, down from 400 days. One B-2 will enter the process every six months, according to the new agreement.