• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
I was thinking for some time to put up this topic , Since B-2 is still a very classified aircraft may be there would be many grey areas which no one might be aware of , But may be we might end up getting to know more about this aircraft.

The One thing that amazes me about this huge aircraft is its shape and how does it manages to fly without having a VS that too when it was developed in late 90's era.

The whole idea of creating a strategic bomber like B-2 was to penetrate deep inside the Soviet Airdefence , Drop the Nuclear Payload and Return Back safely denying the enemy any idea of its presence.

If one looks at the aircraft closely it dosent have the agility or the speed to run away from any Air Defence Fighter , Not does it carry any A2A weapons for its defence , It soley relies on one critical factor for its survival , STEALTH.

It will be carring a load of ECM equipment and Jamming equipment , But any active jammers could also end up betrying its presence.

Common knowledge is that Stealth is effective against short and millimeter wave radar , One which can Guide Missile or can vector the aircrat accuretely m, Radars with Meter and Decameter wave also known as OTH radar is almost immune to Stealth and Shape.

The Soviets had a lot of these 3,500 Km range OTH Radar , so in theory the Soviets would have detected the B-2 presence and could have vectored a Su-27 or Mig-31 to near 1 ~ 2 kM FROM ITS Target and perpahs the ZASLON or the IRST would have finished the job.

Although OTH is not a new phenomena and even the American operat such radar , So what could be the reason that the Americal produced 20 of these $ 2 Billion aircraft , are they confident that B-2 will penetrate the Soviet AD no matter what and deliver the payload.

Or Did the Soviet / Russian developed an Unconventional means to detect the Stealth Aircraft ???


Suggestion and Comments are welcome :)
 

TinWing

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2006
Messages
888
Reaction score
10
The possibility of OTH radars in detecting stealth aircraft has frequently been cited.

Even the Australians supposedly made the claim that their "Jindalee" OTH radar could detect a stealthy target.

The fundimental problem with the theory is that OTH radars are huge, immobile sitting ducks - in a very literal sense. Due to the huge coverage envelope - and the immense costs - OTH radars are decidedly rare and valuable. An OTH made a perfect target even before the advent of precision guided munitions.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
An OTH made a perfect target even before the advent of precision guided munitions.
You are right on that as OTH is quite large ( altghough Russian has few Mobile and semi-Mobile Variant ) and vulnerable to attacks.

But any attack on Soviet OTH Radar would give an early warning of an expected Attack , and hence a very heightened state of alert , Not exactly the kind of environment the B-2 will prefer .

I am some how convinced that B-2 should be able to evade the OTH radar deployed by Soviets/Russia , May be some form of Active Cancellation
 

Schorsch

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Jan 17, 2006
Messages
26
Reaction score
2
If flying in a wartime environment against Russia there will be hundreds of targets on the OTH radar, most of them at the same time covered by conventional radars. How will the OTH operator identify his target as Stealth bomber? He could compare all targets with all other stations, but that doesn't sound very realistic.

Actually in my eyes the best option for detecting stealthy targets is to compare all available radar information at real-time. If you want to be very smart you could receive the the radar waves of a different radar, so that reflected waves of stealthy aircraft are detected. But this would call for highly networked systems, something that goes beyond the ability of all current (and former) "US-enemies". It is, in my view, technically feasible.

Always differentiate between the technically feasible and tactically feasible. Two completly different things. The stuff that works in a labratory don't necesssarily works in rainy and dark weather during war-time when run by frightened conscripts.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
http://www.russianforces.org/podvig/pdf/Podvig-History_and_the_Current_Status_of_the_Russian_Early-Warning_System.pdf

Read this, its quite informative. The OTH radars were aimed specifically at missile launch detection, not early warning of bombers, and never worked satisfactorily.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
overscan said:
http://www.russianforces.org/podvig/pdf/Podvig-History_and_the_Current_Status_of_the_Russian_Early-Warning_System.pdf

Read this, its quite informative. The OTH radars were aimed specifically at missile launch detection, not early warning of bombers, and never worked satisfactorily.
Hi Overscan , Most of the radar which were referred there are the OTH Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) which have significant range ( 5000 ~ 6000 Km ) and generally tend to look up .

It should not be confused with the Long Range (1000 ~ 3500 Km ) Radar which provides EW on Aircraft , Cruise Missile and Bombers , Ofcourse they can also provide some BM EW , but thats not their primary task.

I know of two system's ( I can get the exact radar resignation by weekend ) which the Russian claim as capable of Detecting Stealth , One Radar System ( 1000 Km Range ) and operating in Meter/Decimeter wavelength is a mobile system and the other one with a Range of 3,500 Km operating in Decameter wavelength is a semi-mobile system , Ofcourse these radar are quite large ( something like Australian JORN/JINDALE system but the Australian one are fixed ) .

The Russian have advertised both these radar are capable of detecting stealth aircraft.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
Austin, you referred specifically to "OTH" radars. I think you really mean long wavelength early warning radars.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
overscan said:
Austin, you referred specifically to "OTH" radars. I think you really mean long wavelength early warning radars.
I am of the understanding that OTH is a term used to define those radar which uses Back Scattering to over come the Horizon Limit , Like the waves bounce from the ionosphere .

Both the Long wave Length would use the same principle if they want to achieve those incredible ranges .

Dont the BMEWS Radar and OTH radar both use Long Wave ???

Please Correct me if I am wrong
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Thinking of B-2 , and US desire to have nuclear primacy it would be incomplete if one does take in to account the SDI program or commonly known as Star Wars started during Regan regiem and perhaps the time when B-2 was conceived.

The desire to have a Nuclear Primacy or the ability to destroy all the opponents N-assets during the first counter strike attack would require a combination of *effective* Attack and Defensive Capability ( effective is the key word here )

The Offensive capability would have been headed by the B-2 Stealth Aircraft with the ability to penetrate Soviet defence carrying huge amount of Nuclear weapons ( IIRC the original plan was to have 50 B-2 which was curtailed to 20 A/C after the end of cold war ) , There B-2 would moslty likey strike C & C of Nuclear Strike force of Soviet Union and inflict maximum damage during the first hour of Nuclear Strike , crippling the Soviet ability to respond in an effective and co-ordinated manner.

Ofcourse it would be mighty impossible even for 50 B-2's to destroy all of Soviet N-asset and the Soviets would have responded with ICBM and SLBM strikes , These Strikes would have been destroyed in Space by US SDI weapons system consisting of Laser and other High Energy weapons on Space and Ground .

Destroying all of Soviets ICBM and the remaining Job would have been done by the highly accurate Peacekeeper ICBM and Minuteman SLBM.

All the above is a thing of past as the SDI program didnt suceed as expected and the end of cold war completely stopped the program.

Talking of Nuclear Superiority , This makes an interesting read

Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
Original plans were for 132 B-2s.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Thanks Overscan , Talking about Soviet response and the doomsday machine according to the Book "The Kremlin's Nuclear Sword " The Soviet Operationalised the "Perimetr System" [ also known as "The Dead Hand"] by Jan 1985.

Put it simply the system should come into action if the entire Soviet Leadership was killed in a pre-emptive strike by US , The Perimetr system will swing into action in a very complex but reliable manner , The system was intelligent enough to discriminate between a US strike or a strike by smaller Nuclear powers like China , Russia and France.

The system will transmit Radio Signals with codes via Sats and Special Missile , to all the underground ICBM silos and other system which will then launch the ICBM without human intervention in full auto mode.

The system was tested in one of the exercise on 13 November 1984 where selected auto launch and full fledge testing of the Perimetr system took place , Incidently it says the CIA didnt knew about the existance of such a system until the end of Cold War.

The system was a sort of assurance to the top Soviet leadership that no matter what they had the capability to retaliate and it also assured them not to take hasty decision as the first detection of ICBM launches by Radar or EW satellites ( which could be faulty )and as they could take time on decision to retaliate knowing fully well that the Perimetr existed
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
I'm restricted from saying too much by various signed agreements, but where does the idea come from that the B-2 depends solely on "stealth"? "There are more things..."
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Yes few thing I have read about B-2 is the way it uses its onboard LPI radar in very stealth way , without giving out its actual position to enemy ESM or even evading detection by enemy.

Perhaps the EW suite it carries to evade or jam enemy radar if need be.

May be some broad hints will be welcome :)
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Russian Perimetr System [ The Dead Hand System]
C3: Nuclear Command, Control Cooperation by Yarynich

The operation of the Russian Perimetr system is described by in pp. 157 -158. During a high-level alert, the National Command Authority issues preliminary authorization to a super hardened radio command and control center. The crew working at the center prepares to transmit a launch order by means of Perimetr command missiles which radio the launch codes to the silos. The launch order is transmitted only if three conditions are simultaneously met: the preliminary authorization has been received, there has been a complete loss of communications with the NCA, and positive signals of nuclear detonations are received from the different types of sensors. Obviously, Perimetr cannot order Launch on Warning. Its purpose is to order "Launch After Detonation", but only if first activated by the NCA and then NCA communication is lost.
by Pavel Podvig [ Strategicheskoye yadernoye vooruzheniye Rossii]


Some redundancy has also been built into the communication channels. In addition to mobile land and air-based relay stations, the nuclear C3 network also includes the Perimetr missile system which may be used to transmit launch commands to the nuclear forces. The Perimetr system uses missiles based on retired ballistic missile types (the most recent variant, the Perimetr-RTs, reportedly uses missiles based on the Topol ICBM, while earlier variants used missiles based on the Pioner IRBM and UR-100 ICBM) which would be launched upon the issue of nuclear attack orders and transmit these orders during their 20-50 minute flight over ICBM basing areas. Some consideration was given to enabling the Perimetr system to operate in an automated mode. Following a missile attack warning, Perimetr missiles could be set to launch automatically after a set period of time unless they received a second message stopping the countdown. Although this mode of operation would have provided further insurance against a decapitating strike, it was not adopted due to concerns over unauthorized nuclear launches in the event it proved impossible to stop the countdown.
The developer of the Perimetr System won the State award in 1987 and in mid 90's the Russian extended their Perimetr system to their SSBN fleet , but they were experiencing problem while communicating with submerged submarine fleet.

It remains unclear if by now they managed to resolve the problem associated with the submarine arm and if the Perimetr system uis just restricted to the Land Arm or if its fully functional in the SSBN fleet
 

SOC

I look at pictures all day
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2006
Messages
1,178
Reaction score
8
The B-2 is designed for low-level penetration of Soviet air defenses. The low-level part will make a difference in whether or not it can be detected. Anyway, it's anyones guess how effective it'd be against Russia nowadays, givene the fact that the 20 aircraft fleet is far smaller than the 132 aircraft fleet that was desired during the Cold War. Were something completely unforseen to happen, the US would most likely rely on ICBM and SLBM strikes on Russia to conduct a nuclear war, with B-52Hs likely serving as ALCM launchers and B-2s being tasked against targets on the periphery of Russia, like Murmansk or Petropavlovsk to get at the navy before it can sortie and mount counterstrikes with SSBNs.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Are you sure that B-2 was suppose to do a low level penetration , A low level penetration of a huge aircraft like B-2 is a risky business as it will make her vulnerable to Ack-Ack and Short and Medium range SAM, Not to mention some electrooptic and IR tracking of such huge targets , Besides Visually it would be easy to detect.

The whole idea of developing a Stealth Aircraft like B-2 Bomber was that she could fly high or medium altitude , Penetrate deep inside Soviet AD with almost Impunity drop a Nuclear weapon (Standoff/Free Fall ) and move out as quickly as possible . Ofcourse the B-2 can do the same with conventional PGM like JDAM , Joint Standoff Weapons System etc

Dosent make sense that she flies low although she could do that if she wishes too.

The fact that USAF still maintains her at that very high cost of maintaining her and even modernised regularly ( the latest I heard it will have some AESA radar ) shows that she is still a very capable system for which she was designed.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
Initially, there was no low level penetration requirement, but it was added during development, necessitating major structural and aerodynamic changes.

I believe the low level capability was added "just in case".
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
overscan said:
Initially, there was no low level penetration requirement, but it was added during development, necessitating major structural and aerodynamic changes.

I believe the low level capability was added "just in case".
Indeed! There was a major re-design in 1983-84 that resulted in the design you see today. There were several other variations considered during that time period. One I remember had the same planform as the current aircraft but certain other aspects were a lot closer to Revell's 1/72 guesstimate.

Oh, I don't think I can say too much more about the equipment fit, but it does have a rather comprehensive fit. I am glad that certain proposed systems weren't used. The space allocated for them, though, will likely be used for other purposes if it's not already.
 

SOC

I look at pictures all day
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2006
Messages
1,178
Reaction score
8
Certain proposed systems? Like the idea of injecting CFCs into the exhaust to eliminate contrails at high altitude? I think they had space for some CFC tanks in there somewhere.
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
SOC said:
Certain proposed systems? Like the idea of injecting CFCs into the exhaust to eliminate contrails at high altitude? I think they had space for some CFC tanks in there somewhere.
Something like that; even at this remove I'm still not at all certain how much I can say. As far as I know, that volume is still available on all operational aircraft. The first two prototypes, prior to conversion to production standard, had various pallets of flight-test support gear in those volumes. *chuckle* I should know, I was intimately involved in a lot of the system interfaces with those support measures.
 

RP1

I see the truth in it.
Joined
Feb 22, 2006
Messages
441
Reaction score
1
Website
rp-one.net
According to "The Vital Guide to Military Aircraft" (Not exactly the most reliable source, I suppose) the concept of operations for the B-2 was that it would spend time over the USSR looking for mobile targets, using updates from satelite recon. The odd thing is, it says the radar would only be used at the last minute - which implies there is a significant suite of passive sensors looking down.

What this implies is that the B-2 is (was) a counterforce weapon, aimed against Russian mobile ICBMs. Can anyone remember offhand when Topol-M started development? Given the ridiculously quick reaction time of that system (When on alert) it would seem to be the "antidote" to the B-2.

RP1
 

Meteorit

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Jan 5, 2006
Messages
428
Reaction score
5
Development of the original Topol (SS-25) began in 1975, and that of the Topol-M (SS-27) in the late 1980s. However work was suspended when the Soviet Union collapsed, and was resumed in February 1993 in somewhat different form.

Actually I believe the B-2 was to get recon data from AARS, not just satellites. ;)
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
Hunting Mobile Launchers deep inside Soviet Union was one of the task assigned for B-2 , But they quitely dropped that mission from B-2 list , when In Gulf War 1 they couldnt hunt a Mobile Scud Launcher inspite of having total air superiority.

The SS-25 inspite of being mobile still required pre selected sites from where they could be launched , But the SS-27 dosent require any preselected sites for its launch making its more unpredictable and lethal.

Many things in Topol-M like the scramjet Manuvering warhead etc was developed to take care of the American SDI program , But was freezed after Soviet Break up , and again unfreezed in late 90's
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
USAF Boosting Its Spirits

US Air Force (USAF) B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are currently undergoing a number of upgrades to improve their stealth, communications, radar, and weapons capabilities – enhancements that are just now coming to the aircraft after about 10 years of operational service.

*> B-2 bombers are currently receiving new low-observable (LO) coatings under the Advanced High-Frequency Material (AHFM) program that not only improve the aircraft's stealth capabilities but also make the aircraft much easier to maintain

*>Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (Palmdale, CA), prime contractor for the B-2 program, has developed not only new LO coatings for the bomber but a new application method as well, one that employs a robotic spray mechanism that is accurate to millionths of inches.

*> the company developed new LO fasteners for the outer panels of the aircraft that make it much easier for maintenance personnel to access systems inside the aircraft, fasteners that make removing the panels much the same as taking them off of regular, non-stealthy aircraft. Not all of the outer panels will be fastened together in this manner, and there will still be some of the tape currently used to hold them in place.

*>Application of the new LO coatings will take a total of seven years to complete on the USAF's B-2 fleet of 21 aircraft, as the LO upgrade will be performed during the aircrafts' regular depot-level maintenance cycle (in fact, the only maintenance performed on the aircraft at the depot level is on its LO coatings

*>In addition to the new LO coatings, the B-2 Spirits are receiving a new UHF communications system and, by the end of the decade, will also be connected to the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite-communications (SATCOM) system, which will replace the current MILSTAR SATCOM system. Alongside the communications enhancements, the B-2's computers and processors will be upgraded as well, a move necessitated by rapidly evolving technology. As Heimpel put it, if you look at the B-2 now, "it's like a room full of Commodore computers," as design work on the aircraft began back in the 1980s.

*>The B-2's AN/APG-181 Ku-band radar will also be upgraded by replacing the legacy antenna with a new solid-state, active electronically scanned array (AESA), which will be provided by Raytheon (El Segundo, CA) under a deal announced on Sept. 9 that could be worth as much as $600 million. This represents the fourth phase of the B-2 Radar Modernization Program (RMP). Under the RMP, each B-2 will receive two new AESA antennas, one each on either side of the nose on the underside of the aircraft.

*>the antenna will incorporate some LO design features, but perhaps more important, the radar will employ low-probability-of-intercept (LPI) waveforms and power-management techniques (the latter presumably meaning that the B-2 would employ the radar very conservatively).

*>Currently, the B-2 is able to deliver a total of 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), but Northrop Grumman is about to deliver a new bomb rack to the Air Force that would enable the stealth bomber to deliver 80 JDAMs – meaning that a single B-2 could strike as many targets as five could using the legacy bomb rack (or one B-2 conducting five separate sorties).

*>Moreover, with the new bomb rack, the B-2 will be able to launch all 80 in rapid succession, to 80 different targets, if desired, and the target of any individual JDAM can be changed in flight by the aircrew.

*>In terms of future upgrades, work will begin in March 2005 on equipping the B-2 with the Enhanced JDAM, which has a penetrator warhead. Interestingly, sources indicate that the Air Force is also looking at developing a warhead weighing in the neighborhood of 20,000-25,000 lbs.

*>Northrop Grumman has also been pitching a plan to the Air Force that would see the B-2 carry Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). Heimpel said that the stealth bomber could carry a total of 200-240 SDBs.

*>In addition, the USAF is also considering finally putting the third crew station to use (currently only two of the aircraft's three crew stations are used) Heimpel noted that if the aircraft ever did carry SDBs, "it might be good to have a third guy." The third crew station could also be used to expand the missions the B-2 can perform.Linn said, might be close-air support for special-operations forces.
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
USAF B-2 Bombers Pack Greater Punch

Source: Northrop Grumman
Mar. 29, 2006

Northrop Grumman (Palmdale, CA) has completed an upgrade of the US Air Force's B-2 stealth bomber that allows the aircraft to deliver five times its previous capacity of independently targeted, "smart" (i.e., GPS-guided weapons).

The company delivered the 54th and final smart-bomb-rack assembly (SBRA) earlier this month to the Air Force's 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, MO, home of the B-2 fleet. An SBRA-equipped stealth bomber can deliver 80 500-lb. smart weapons, each targeted against a different aimpoint.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the B-2, which remains the only long-range, large-payload aircraft that can penetrate deep into protected airspace.

The SBRA upgrade program enhances the B-2's ability to respond to current and emerging worldwide threats as a key element of the military's network-centric warfare concept (for a look at this and other upgrades to the B-2, see "USAF Boosting Its Spirits").

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $131-million Air Force contract in 2001 to develop the SBRA system, including substantial modifications to hardware and software on the B-2. In 2003, Northrop Grumman was awarded another contract to begin conversion of 45 existing B-2 bomb rack assemblies to the new configuration (in addition to nine that were converted during the development phase of the program). The total value of the production work was $31.7 million. All bomb-rack conversions were delivered to the Air Force on or ahead of schedule.

Northrop Grumman was responsible for development, validation, and production of the SBRA system and integration of the GBU-38 500-lb. Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) on the B-2. The JDAM is produced by Boeing (St. Louis, MO), which also designed and fabricated the B-2 SBRA hardware kits for the SBRA conversion under a subcontract to Northrop Grumman.
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
I suspect the fastener and coatings concepts mentioned were developed by NGC as part of another program where they're a major subcontractor. Most of the rest appears to be fairly straight forward equipment fit upgrades. The third seat was always an option and was qualified from the beginning. During the initial flight test phase, the rails for that seat made it easy to mount various short-term flight test equipment there.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
Surely the original radar used LPI and power management techniques? This article seems to suggest these are new additions.
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
overscan said:
Surely the original radar used LPI and power management techniques? This article seems to suggest these are new additions.
Oh, it did, but incorporation of AESA allows considerable more latitude in exactly what is done much as the radars in later generation LO aircraft, that have AESA incorporated from the beginning, have extra variety in what they can do.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
I thought so. Badly worded article ;)
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
Livng down to my usual expectations of press accuracy. *sigh*
 

Austin

CLEARANCE: Confidential
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Messages
194
Reaction score
1
elmayerle said:
Livng down to my usual expectations of press accuracy. *sigh*
May be its just my fault as I tried to put imp points from the article making it sound gramatically incorrect, Let me post the whole stuff below

USAF Boosting Its Spirits
by Brendan P. Rivers
Sep. 20, 2004

US Air Force (USAF) B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are currently undergoing a number of upgrades to improve their stealth, communications, radar, and weapons capabilities – enhancements that are just now coming to the aircraft after about 10 years of operational service.

B-2 bombers are currently receiving new low-observable (LO) coatings under the Advanced High-Frequency Material (AHFM) program that not only improve the aircraft's stealth capabilities but also make the aircraft much easier to maintain. Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems (Palmdale, CA), prime contractor for the B-2 program, has developed not only new LO coatings for the bomber but a new application method as well, one that employs a robotic spray mechanism that is accurate to millionths of inches.

In addition, the company developed new LO fasteners for the outer panels of the aircraft that make it much easier for maintenance personnel to access systems inside the aircraft, fasteners that make removing the panels much the same as taking them off of regular, non-stealthy aircraft. Not all of the outer panels will be fastened together in this manner, and there will still be some of the tape currently used to hold them in place. However, according to Henry Heimpel, manager of government relations for Northrop Grumman, tape will still be used in places where the panels are not frequently removed to access systems for maintenance. Although Heimpel said that the new LO coatings would also increase performance he declined to be more specific.

Application of the new LO coatings will take a total of seven years to complete on the USAF's B-2 fleet of 21 aircraft, as the LO upgrade will be performed during the aircrafts' regular depot-level maintenance cycle (in fact, the only maintenance performed on the aircraft at the depot level is on its LO coatings, which Heimpel attributed to the high reliability of the aircraft itself). One aircraft with the new coating has been delivered to the Air Force and another has just been completed. Northrop Grumman plans to complete another by the end of the year. Performing the LO upgrade during the regular depot-level maintenance rotation, however, means that the company will only be able to apply the new coating to three B-2s each year. Heimpel noted that this is "the dilemma of having such a small fleet." Only so many B-2s can be rotated through the depot at one time due to the service's operational and training needs.

In addition to the new LO coatings, the B-2 Spirits are receiving a new UHF communications system and, by the end of the decade, will also be connected to the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite-communications (SATCOM) system, which will replace the current MILSTAR SATCOM system. Alongside the communications enhancements, the B-2's computers and processors will be upgraded as well, a move necessitated by rapidly evolving technology. As Heimpel put it, if you look at the B-2 now, "it's like a room full of Commodore computers," as design work on the aircraft began back in the 1980s.

The B-2's AN/APG-181 Ku-band radar will also be upgraded by replacing the legacy antenna with a new solid-state, active electronically scanned array (AESA), which will be provided by Raytheon (El Segundo, CA) under a deal announced on Sept. 9 that could be worth as much as $600 million. This represents the fourth phase of the B-2 Radar Modernization Program (RMP). Under the RMP, each B-2 will receive two new AESA antennas, one each on either side of the nose on the underside of the aircraft.

Of course, putting a high-power antenna on a stealth aircraft seems like it would be counter-productive: how can the aircraft be stealthy when its active, high-power radar is practically screaming out its location? The answer, according to Rob Dorr, Northrop Grumman's B-2 RMP program manager, is that the antenna will incorporate some LO design features, but perhaps more important, the radar will employ low-probability-of-intercept (LPI) waveforms and power-management techniques (the latter presumably meaning that the B-2 would employ the radar very conservatively).

Interestingly, the radar's performance, according to Dorr, will not be enhanced under this program – by Air Force requirements. The program, as currently structured, requires no enhancement of capability, but for the radar to operate in another location in the electromagnetic spectrum, although the potential for future capability upgrades remains. The real driver for the upgrade, the need to operate in another portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, was necessitated by a move made late in US President Bill Clinton's administration. The legacy system operates in a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where Department of Defense (DoD) systems are secondary users, with commercial applications as primary users. As a secondary user, the B-2 radar could continue operations only if the system did not interfere with primary users, as interference could lead to the radar unintentionally "frying satellites," according to one industry source.

In 2000 a US Department of Commerce letter to the director of spectrum management for the DoD stated that secondary users in the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum where the B-2 radar operates would no longer be able to operate on a non-interference basis with primary users in the near future. This correspondence drove the USAF to migrate the B-2 radar system to another portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in which DoD systems are guaranteed primary-user status.

But while the radar upgrade may not yet be providing the B-2 with a boost in capabilities, the same cannot be said about enhancements being made to the bomber's ability to deliver ordnance. Currently, the B-2 is able to deliver a total of 16 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), but Northrop Grumman is about to deliver a new bomb rack to the Air Force that would enable the stealth bomber to deliver 80 JDAMs – meaning that a single B-2 could strike as many targets as five could using the legacy bomb rack (or one B-2 conducting five separate sorties).

Moreover, with the new bomb rack, the B-2 will be able to launch all 80 in rapid succession, to 80 different targets, if desired, and the target of any individual JDAM can be changed in flight by the aircrew. The modified bomb racks have been certified by the Air Force and have completed developmental testing. Northrop Grumman will modify the bomb racks of four B-2s by the end of this year and plans to modify the remainder of the fleet thusly by the end of 2006.

In terms of future upgrades, work will begin in March 2005 on equipping the B-2 with the Enhanced JDAM, which has a penetrator warhead. Interestingly, sources indicate that the Air Force is also looking at developing a warhead weighing in the neighborhood of 20,000-25,000 lbs. Should the service move forward with the development of such a weapon, Northrop Grumman officials said they believe the B-2 would be ideal for delivering it, as it would be able to carry one under each wing. Northrop Grumman has also been pitching a plan to the Air Force that would see the B-2 carry Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). Heimpel said that the stealth bomber could carry a total of 200-240 SDBs.

In addition, the USAF is also considering finally putting the third crew station to use (currently only two of the aircraft's three crew stations are used). Heimpel noted that if the aircraft ever did carry SDBs, "it might be good to have a third guy." The third crew station could also be used to expand the missions the B-2 can perform, added Kenny Linn, director of business strategy and development for Northrop Grumman. One such mission, Linn said, might be close-air support for special-operations forces.
 

Antonio

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Staff member
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2006
Messages
3,367
Reaction score
45
B-2 Article on Aviation Week & Space Technology March 27, 2006 pg 56

Stealthy Genesis by William B. Scott

The first sketch from June 1979 is included. Also a graphical comparison before and after the B-2's was redesigned to handle low-altitude missions.
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
Pity they don't/can't show some of the other configurations studied during the evolution from the original to the final configurations. There were some interesting different variations.
 

overscan

Administrator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 27, 2005
Messages
11,601
Reaction score
1,069
Well, perhaps the Aviation Week article has more designs. Anyone subscribe? ;)
 

elmayerle

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
14
Heh, I recognize the signature on that first one from AvWeek. They don't show some of the other configurations studied in the 1983-1984 time frame. I only remember one in detail and another in basic concept, but there were suggestions from all the partner companies.
 

flateric

CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
Staff member
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2006
Messages
8,801
Reaction score
250
If someone have these well-known overfly shots made by reporter who hired a Cessna(?) during B-2 roll-out ceremony, please share if you can.
Thanks.
 

flateric

CLEARANCE: Above Top Secret
Staff member
Top Contributor
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 2, 2006
Messages
8,801
Reaction score
250
Thanks a lot, namesake! Interesting that in B-2 roll-out video you can hear that Cessna flying over during Secretary of the Air Force interview with press:)))
 
Top