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
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.