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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 146-96
March 21, 1996

AIR FORCE TO UPGRADE B-2 TEST FLIGHT AIRCRAFT

President Bill Clinton has directed that the remaining B-2 Spirit test flight aircraft be upgraded to a fully operational aircraft using funds from a Congressional addition to the FY96 defense budget for the multi-role bomber, DoD announced today. The B-2 upgrade is expected to cost about $493 million and will increase the B-2 inventory to 21 aircraft. This upgrade is contingent upon Air Force negotiations of a mutually agreeable firm-fixed price contract with Northrop Grumman.

In his decision, President Bill Clinton said, "The B-2 bomber is an indispensable element of our warfighting and nuclear deterrence force postures. This decision will best enhance the value and capabilities of the existing B-2 program."

The upgrade includes replacing the landing gear, a new avionics suite, and modifications to the aircraft structure, fuel system, and weapons bay doors. It would be primarily accomplished at the Northrop Palmdale facility and is estimated to take about three years. Major subcontractors and other suppliers will also be involved.

In February, President Clinton directed that the Congressional addition be used for procurement of B-2 components, upgrades and modifications that would be of value to the existing 20-aircraft fleet. The decision to seek a contract to modify the last test flight aircraft will take advantage of an existing airframe as well as provide a five percent increased in the B-2 fleet size for attrition and for aircrew training.

The B-2 Spirit is the Air Force's low-observable bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. Its "stealth" characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate most air defenses. The B-2 acquisition program calls for about $7 billion over the next five years to buy, deploy and operate 20 B-2s in final combat configuration. The total R&D and procurement for the B-2 program in then-year dollars is $44.4 billion.

Total buy for the B-2 program is now 21 operational aircraft with final delivery by 2000. The Air Force has already accepted ten B-2s and five are currently in production. There are six flight test B-2 aircraft: three remain in flight test and two have returned to Northrop for modification into final operational configuration. The first test aircraft -- the remaining aircraft to be upgraded -- was used to conduct the early flight testing and is in flyable storage at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif.