B-2 Upgrade Passes Critical Design Review

The first phase of the Flex Strike B-2 bomber improvements passed critical design review with the Air Force in February, Northrop Grumman announced Wednesday. The upgrade package, which among various improvements, will let the B-2 carry mixed loads of munitions to diversify the kinds of targets it can hit on a sortie. “This will allow the B-2 to carry either a rotary launcher or a smart bomb rack, or both,” Northrop Grumman B-2 Manager Dave Mazur told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview. Other upgrades also give the B-2 improved capability against moving targets thanks to improvements to the radar and processor, and also sensor fusion capabilities on the bomber. A Defensive Management System improvement will take the B-2 “from a 1980s analog system to a digital system,” improving maintainability and opening the door for many more modes and growth, Mazur said. The Flex Strike upgrade consolidates a number of operational flight programs specific to certain weapons into a single OFP that manages all the B-2’s weapon carriage systems. The company is performing a three-year, $104 million engineering and manufacturing development of the upgrade. When development is complete, the upgrade will be installed on B-2s as they come through programmed depot maintenance at Northrop’s Palmdale, Calif., facility. The Air Force plans to retain the B-2 until 2058.