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USAF, Northrop test new B-2 digital mission data upgrades

A B-2 Spirit bomber, deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, is prepared for a training mission at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, on 17 January 2019. (US Air Force)

The US Air Force (USAF) and representatives at Northrop Grumman have successfully demonstrated a new digital data transmission capability for the B-2 bomber, as part of a larger effort to overhaul the legacy stealth aircraft, according to a company statement on 9 August.

Service officials and company representatives completed an integrated airborne mission transfer (IAMT) between a B-2 Adaptable Communications Suite (ACS) ground station and a B-2 Spirit outfitted with Northrop Grumman's Multi Mission Domain (MMD) architecture, according to the statement.

The IAMT demonstration took place at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and was part of a larger, joint digital modernisation effort between the USAF and the company, dubbed the B-2 Collaborative Combat Communication (B2C3) programme.

Specifically, the 9 August IAMT demonstrationwas part of the Spiral 1 phase of the B2C3 effort, company officials said in the statement.

“We are providing the B-2 with the capabilities to communicate and operate in advanced battle management,” Nikki Kodama, Northrop Grumman's B-2 programme manager, said in the statement. “The integration of the [MMD architecture] with our weapon system will further enhance the connectivity and survivability in highly contested environments” of the legacy stealth bomber, she added.

B2C3 Spiral 1 development officially began in October 2022 and production and fielding of B-2 aircraft outfitted with Spiral 1 upgrades are scheduled for the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2024, according to USAF budget documents.

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