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U.S. Air Force Extends Service Life of B-2 Bombers

The U.S Air Force plans to extend the service life of the nuclear-capable B-2 bomber to nearly 2060, Aviation Week & Space Technology reported this week (see GSN, Aug. 18).

The bomber was once set to be retired in 2037, but the Air Force has pushed that back to 2058, said Harry Heimple, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems’ manger for government requirements. In the meantime, several upgrades are planned for the B-2, including the addition of active stealth technology and the use of new materials to make the bomber more serviceable, Aviation Week reported (Wall/Fulghum, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Sept. 27).

Meanwhile, a new study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment nonprofit research institute says that improvements to the Air Force’s fleet of 21 B-2 bombers would help maintain U.S. long-range strike capabilities, according to Defense Daily.

“Near-term improvements to current American long-range strike capabilities should emphasize on ‘precision information’ needed for precision strike,” the study says. “In the case of the bomber fleet, the next step with the greatest payoff would be to invest around $2 billion to modernize the avionics in the 21 B-2s” (Lorenzo Cortes, Defense Daily, Sept. 29).

The Air Force is also considering deploying a new long-range strike aircraft between 2020 and 2025, and perhaps as early as 2015, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology (see GSN, June 24). The new manned aircraft would be expected to have a range of 2,500 nautical miles, a speed of Mach 2 and a daytime attack capability (Wall/Fulghum, Aviation Week & Space Technology).

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