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Northrop begins upgrade of US Air Force's B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit bomber. A Northrop Grumman Photo

CALIFORNIA (BNS): The US Air Force's B-2 Spirit stealth bomber will in near future become fast enough to send and receive battlefield communication.

Northrop Grumman, the prime contractor for the heavy bomber, has begun installing the first set of hardware -- EHF Increment 1 -- that will empower the aircraft to send and receive battlefield information up to 100 times faster than its present satellite communication system.

"EHF Increment 1 puts in place the high speed data handling infrastructure that the B-2 will need to perform its most advanced communications and weapons delivery missions in the future," USAF commander Col. Kevin Harms said.

The first 'kit' of the EHF Increment 1 will include a new integrated processing unit designed by Lockheed Martin to replace up to a dozen current stand-alone avionics computers on the B-2; A new disk drive unit that will enable transfer of EHF data onto and off of the B-2; and a network of fibre optic cable that will support the high speed data transfers within the aircraft.

The system is expected to undergo ground test in 2010, Northrop said.

The second kit, Increment 2, involves installation of a new communications terminal and new antennas that will allow the B-2 to transmit and receive information securely via satellite.

Increment 3 will integrate the bomber into the US Department of Defence'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.

B-2 Spirit is a long-range heavy bomber with the USAF. It features low observable technology that enables it to penetrate dense anti-aircraft defences. The aircraft is designed to deploy both nuclear and conventional weapons.

It can fly more than 6,000 nautical miles without refueling and over 10,000 nautical miles with one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to reach any point on the globe within hours.

The USAF has a total of 20 B-2 Spirit bombers in its arsenal.

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