All 20 Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have been outfitted with a new flight management control processor designed to modernize the aircraft’s computer system, improve its weapons integration and enable it to rapidly embrace software upgrades, service officials said.
The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, Air Force officials said.
"The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor has been replaced with a modern Integrated Processor Unit. This upgrade is a quantum improvement over the legacy system, providing over a thousand times the processor throughput, memory, and network speed,” Maj. Gen. Jon Norman, Director of Global Power Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.
The B-2 Flight Management Control Processor Upgrade, also known as the Extremely High Frequency, Increment 1 processor upgrade, completed the final aircraft install in August 2016, Air Force spokesman Capt. Michael Hertzog said.
Faster, more capable processors will enable the aircraft’s avionics, radar, sensors and communications technologies to better identify and attack enemy targets. The sensor-to-shooter time will be greatly reduced, allowing the B-2 to launch weapons much more effectively, therefore reducing its exposure to enemy attacks.
Although built in the 1980s, the B-2 is a digital airplane which uses what’s called a “glass cockpit” for flight controls and on-board systems.
The upgrade involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
“Processing capacity is the force enabler for all future B-2 avionics upgrades, including upcoming integration of digital nuclear weapons, such as the B61-12," Norman added.
Air Force plans, as Norman indicated, call for the B-2 bomber to be armed with a next generation digital nuclear weapon -- called the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit.
The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation, service officials explained.
The service is also accelerating plans to acquire a nuclear-armed Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO - an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile.
The LRSO is especially designed for high-risk enemy targets where firing a long-range nuclear weapon might be needed to keep aircraft crews away from risk of successful enemy attack. The Air Force has released a solicitation to industry as part of the process to design, build and deploy the new weapon.
The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.
In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.
Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.
The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.
The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a weapon described as a more explosive version of the Air Force GBU-28 bunker buster.
Most of the Air Force B-2 bombers based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload.
The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.
- Kris Osborn can be reached at Kris.Osborn@Scout.com.
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