Aerial Warfare

Northrop Grumman Secures $7 Billion Contract for B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Upgrade


Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., headquartered in Palmdale, California, has been awarded a substantial $7 billion contract to modernize and sustain the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth strategic heavy bomber fleet. This indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, granted by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-2 Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, will ensure the operational effectiveness of the fleet through a range of enhancements and logistical support services until May 3, 2029. The contract underscores Northrop Grumman’s pivotal role as the sole provider for B-2 bomber maintenance and modernization. Key components of the contract include sustaining engineering, software maintenance, provision of support equipment, and programmed depot maintenance for the entire fleet. The majority of the work will take place in Palmdale, California, with additional activities conducted at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.

The B-2 Spirit, also known as the Stealth Bomber, is an advanced American heavy strategic bomber renowned for its low-observable stealth technology, enabling it to penetrate dense anti-aircraft defenses. Designed by Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) and produced from 1987 to 2000, the B-2 features a flying wing design with a subsonic speed and a crew of two. It is capable of deploying both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, including up to eighty 500-pound class Mk 82 JDAM GPS-guided bombs or sixteen 2,400-pound B83 nuclear bombs. It remains the only in-service aircraft capable of carrying large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration. The development of the B-2 began under the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) project during the Carter administration.

The program aimed to produce 132 bombers, but the end of the Cold War and budget constraints reduced the order to 21. Each B-2 was produced at an average cost of $737 million, with total procurement costs averaging $929 million per aircraft. The B-2 can operate at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and has an unrefueled range exceeding 6,000 nautical miles. With midair refueling, it can cover over 10,000 nautical miles. The bomber entered service in 1997 and was first used in combat during the Kosovo War in 1999. It has since seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, performing both nuclear and conventional attack missions. This new contract ensures that the B-2 Spirit will continue to be a critical asset in the U.S. Air Force’s strategic capabilities, maintaining its technological edge and operational readiness well into the future.

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