Palmdale, Ca: American defence and aerospace major, Northrop Grumman Corporation, has begun work on a system development and demonstration (SDD) contract for the first phase of a new extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications system for the US Air Force's B2 stealth bomber.
Under a planned three-phase upgrade programme, the new EHF system will eventually allow the B2 to send and receive battlefield information up to 100 times faster than its current ultra-high frequency (UHF) satellite communications system.
Northrop Grumman is the US Air Force's prime contractor for the B2, the flagship of the nation's fleet of long-range strike aircraft.
During phase-I, the Northrop Grumman-led team will replace the B-2's current flight management computers with a single, integrated processing unit developed by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration. The contract will also involve development of a fibre optic network that will support high-speed data transfers to, from and within the aircraft, and delivery of a disk drive unit from Honeywell Defense and Space that will facilitate future transfer of EHF data onto and off the B2.
The phase-II of the B-2 EHF programme will give the aircraft the ability to send and receive information at EHF frequencies, while phase III will fully integrate the new EHF communications capabilities into the aircraft's controls and displays.
According to Mark Rhoades, Northrop Grumman's EHF Satcom program manager, the EHF Satcom system will also allow the B2 bomber to connect easily to the US Department of Defense's Global Information Grid, a worldwide network of information systems, processes and personnel involved in collecting, storing, managing and disseminating information on demand to warfighters, policy makers and military support personnel.
In particular, the EHF will make the B2 compatible with both current and future secure military satellite communications networks. "The B- 2 will help ensure continuity of secure, worldwide military communications for allied commanders as the current network of Milstar satellites transitions to the new Advanced EHF satellite network," Rhoades said.
The B-2's new EHF Satcom system is the latest in a series of modernization programmes that Northrop Grumman and its subcontractors have undertaken with the US Air Force to ensure that the aircraft remains fully capable against evolving threats.
Other recent or current B-2 modernization programmes include:
* A "smart" bomb rack assembly that allows the aircraft to deliver 80
independently targeted, 500-lb. smart weapons, five times more than
* Application of a specially formulated surface coating that has
significantly reduced B2 maintenance time and improved operational
* Installation of a line-of-sight tactical communications system that
improves B2 pilots' ability to share critical targeting and threat
information and maintain real-time awareness of the battlespace; and
* Installation of an advanced electronically scanned array antenna
designed to enable more advanced imaging capabilities in the future.
The B2 Spirit stealth bomber is one of the most survivable aircraft in the world and remains the only long-range, large-payload aircraft that can penetrate deeply into protected airspace.
The B2 bomber can fly more than 6,000 nautical miles un-refueled and more than 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to reach any point on the globe within hours.
Northrop Grumman is a $30 billion global defence and technology company that provides systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.