The B-2 flies over the Utah Testing and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, during the test run Sept. 10. Photo: Bobbie Garcia
In the midst of a Defensive Management System Modernization (DMS-M) program, the U.S. Air Force’s Northrop Grumman B-2 stealth bomber is making progress toward Milestone C, the Air Force said in an email statement. The modernization program reached Milestone B in March 2016, thus beginning the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase. With a December 2019 target date, the next milestone achievement would lead to full rate production (FRP) shortly thereafter.
“The unique combination of range, precision, payload and ability to penetrate and operate in anti-access/area denial environments allow the B-2 to identify, locate, target and destroy the highest value enemy targets,” the Air Force said. “With necessary upgrades, the B-2 can accomplish its mission regardless of location, return to base safely, and permit freedom of movement for follow-on forces, including other long range strike platforms. Modifications such as the DMS-M are necessary to preserve this strategic advantage against 21st century threats.”
Modernization includes the integration of a suite of antennas, receivers and displays that provide real-time situational awareness. The Air Force says that, to date, the DMS-M effort is the most extensive modification effort that the bomber has undergone. In its current phase in the program, the B-2 should experience a system critical design review (CDR), completion of hardware and software development efforts, integrated test (IT), and initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). This phase involves the modification of three aircraft.
Major subcontractors on the modernization program are BAE Systems for receivers, Ball Aerospace and L-3 Randtron for antennas, and Lockheed Martin for display processors. Total research development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funding for the program is $1.837 billion to develop four units. Total procurement funding is $832 million to procure 16 additional units. (The Air Force says one unit consists of simultaneous replacement of the legacy defensive management system subsystems.)
The B-2 was publicly displayed for the first time in November 1988. It is a multi-role heavy bomber with 40,000 pounds of payload. While Northrop Grumman was the original primary contractor on the B-2, its team included Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries Inc.