Northrop Grumman demonstrates B-2 Spirit’s automated mission updates

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Corporation, in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force, conducted a demonstration of the integrated airborne mission transfer (IAMT) on the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Whiteman Air Force Base is the main air base of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, where 19 aircraft are currently flown by the US Air Force 509th and 131st Bomb Wings.

The IAMT demonstration showcased a new capability allowing the B-2 Spirit to perform digital machine-to-machine transfers of new missions while in flight, forgoing the need for flight crews to manually input mission data.

The specific aircraft involved, designated Vehicle 1086 and nicknamed the “Spirit of Kitty Hawk,” was outfitted with Northrop Grumman’s Multi-Mission Domain (MMD) architecture.

During the demonstration, around 50 mission transfers took place over two days, carried out in partnership with the U.S. Air Force.

“We are equipping the B-2 with capabilities to communicate and operate in advanced battle management systems and the joint all-domain command and control environment, ensuring the B-2 stays ahead of evolving threats,” Nikki Kodama, Vice President and B-2 Program Manager at Northrop Grumman, explained in a press release. “This digital software integration with our weapon system will improve connectivity and survivability in highly contested environments as part of our modernization efforts.”

This technology is part of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Collaborative Combat Communication (B2C3) Spiral 1 program, aimed at enhancing the B-2’s communication abilities within the current battlespace environment. Digital communications capabilities should be extended to the entire B-2 fleet.

The Northrop Grumman B-2 is one of three strategic bombers operated by the United States Air Force, along with the supersonic Rockwell B-1 Lancer and the venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. The result of the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) program, it flew for the first time in 1989.

The B-2 (and the B-1) should eventually be replaced by the B-21 Raider. Unveiled by Northrop Grumman on December 2, 2022, this new strategic bomber reuses some of the B-2’s general characteristics with a stealthy flying wing design.

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