Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bolstering Spirits in the Year of the B-2

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz,  Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- The Air Force's fleet of B-2 Spirit multi-role bombers will receive defensive system upgrades that will further increase the survivability and effectiveness of the aircraft.

The Defensive Management System Modernization program, or DMS-M, will upgrade or replace the Electronic Support Measure suite, passive antennas and display processors, as well as address sustainability concerns.

"The new antennas are going to increase the frequency coverage," said William Keen, B-2 deputy program element monitor and program analyst.

This increased coverage will provide the B-2 with greater threat detection and identification capabilities, Keen said.

Greater ability to detect and identify potential threats will aid in keeping the aircrew and aircraft safe.

The antenna arrays included in the DMS-M will be coupled with new avionics graphics processors, give the pilots a visual display of the information provided by the antennas.

According to Keen, the current processors will not be able to meet the performance needs of the new antenna system, so they must be replaced.

"The graphics processors allow the visual display to cue the pilots to react to threats," said Master Sgt. Domnick Janitell, B-2 command avionics manager. "The new threats we face today are more complex and the new receiver processors will be able to analyze those more complex signals."

The DMS-M will also remedy the sustainability concerns of the B-2.

"The currently fielded system has a lot of sustainment issues," Keen said. "We need more spare parts and we need better repair capabilities."

The B-2 uses line replaceable units, or LRUs, which are modular components that are designed to be quickly repaired or replaced at an operating location. However, many of these LRUs have been consumed over the life of the aircraft.

Janitell added that there are 20 year-old components used in the platform that are no longer able to be repaired.

"We just don't have the parts we need," Keen said.

The upgrades covered by DMS-M aim to address these sustainability issues in part by streamlining the LRUs from a current total of 23 to 15 new, more capable versions. This reorganization may make repairs easier and less time consuming for maintenance crews.

Once completed, the DMS-M program will provide the Joint Force Commander and the B-2 fleet with advanced situational awareness, improved supportability, enhanced lethality, increased platform survivability and networked battlespace awareness.

Under the project's current timeline, a contract is projected to be awarded in mid-2014, Keen said. The DMS-M program will then enter a phase known as Engineering and Manufacturing Development wherein the components will be required to meet certain standards before going into full production.

The B-2 Spirit is considered one of the world's most advanced and formidable aircraft. Projects such as DMS-M keep the B-2 viable as THE platform that ensures no adversary can find safe haven anywhere, Keen said.