- Northrop Grumman's contract period concludes in 2019 but could be extended to 2024
- The company is simultaneously conducting several software and hardware upgrades of the fleet
The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded Northrop Grumman a sole-source contract with a USD9.9 billion ceiling to support modernisation and sustainment of the 20-aircraft B-2 Spirit stealth bomber fleet, the Pentagon announced on 3 June.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity Flexible Acquisition Sustainment Team (FAST) II contract includes B-2 "enhancements, sustainment logistics elements, including sustaining engineering, software maintenance, and support equipment", according to the Pentagon.
Programmed depot maintenance and other interim contractor support are also included in the deal. The contract period concludes in May 2019 but also includes an option that, if exercised, would extend the timeframe to May 2024.
Work will be conducted at Northrop Grumman's facility in Palmdale, California, and at air force bases including Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, Edwards Air Force Base in California, and Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
In April Northrop Grumman completed a preliminary design review of a new software package for the B-2. The software, known as the USAF's 'Flexible Strike Phase 1' programme, was created to streamline weapons management on the platform. The aircraft currently have several standalone software programmes that each manage a specific mission, and the ongoing simplification will reduce maintenance costs, and increase reliability, according to Northrop Grumman.
The company also began software and hardware upgrades to the aircraft's Lockheed Martin AN/APR-50 defensive management system (DMS) in February. In October 2012 Northrop Grumman completed field installations of the B-2's active electronically scanned array (AESA)-upgraded Raytheon AN/APQ-181, under the radar modernisation programme.
Other enhancements to the B-2 include improvements to the cockpit weapon interfaces to accommodate new munitions, such as the Small Diameter Bomb II, and Massive Ordnance Penetrator; the fitting of enhanced communications; and the installation of a Universal Armament Interface.