Northrop Grumman Corp. said Oct. 13 that it has begun flight testing new computers and communications gear that eventually will allow the B-2 stealth bomber to send and receive battlefield information by satellite more than 100 times faster than today.

The Los Angeles-based company has conducted a series of test flights since Sept. 1 using a B-2 test aircraft stationed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The flight test program, Northrop said, is part of the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communication program. Northrop Grumman is prime contractor for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The so-called Increment 1 EHF system that flew includes:

  • An integrated processing unit developed by Owega, N.Y.-based Lockheed Martin Systems Integration that will replace up to a dozen stand-alone avionics computers on the B-2.
  • A disk drive unit developed by Plymouth, Minn.-based Honeywell Defense and Space Electronics Systems that will enable transfer of EHF data onto and off of the B-2.
  • A network of fiber optic cable that will support high-speed data transfers within the aircraft.

Subsequent phases of the B-2 EHF satcom program will involve installing a new communications terminal and new antennas that will allow the B-2 to securely transmit and receive information via satellite. During the third and final phase of the program, the B-2 will be integrated into the U.S. Defense Department’s Global Information Grid.