BAE Systems to Supply B-2 Threat-Warning System Upgrade

 - March 2, 2012, 10:25 AM
Prime contractor Northrop Grumman selected BAE Systems to replace the current AN/APR-50 defensive management system on the stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

With a recent contract award from Northrop Grumman to provide electronic support measures (ESM) on the B-2 Spirit bomber, BAE Systems will be providing electronic warfare systems on all three U.S. Air Force low-observable platforms, including the F-22 and F-35 fighters, according to the company. The new ESM system will replace the original Lockheed Martin AN/APR-50 defensive management system on the 20 B-2s. The ESM system works in conjunction with the radar warning receiver to detect and alert aircrew to electronic threats.

Although it says it was selected “in a competitive bid process over the incumbent and industry’s top electronic warfare providers,” BAE (and Northrop Grumman) declined to comment on the contract award further or reveal which other companies had competed to supply the ESM system, details of which are classified. Northrop Grumman itself is a leading electronic warfare system supplier, as are Raytheon and ITT Exelis. Lockheed Martin said it was not selected for the next-generation system but is on contract to support the existing program.

“The B-2 is a long-range aircraft that must have stealth, mission planning and exceptional situational awareness to reach its targets through highly developed, increasingly sophisticated enemy defenses,” said Brian Walters, v-p and general manager of BAE’s Electronic Combat Solutions business. “Our ESM system will provide aircrews with real-time threat warning and situational awareness of threat emitters and will allow crews to alter their planned flight path through contested airspace to complete their mission safely.”

Even as it begins development of the next-generation long-range strike bomber, the Air Force has extended the service lives of the B-52H and B-2. In its 2010 quadrennial nuclear posture review, the Department of Defense said it planned to invest more than $1 billion over five years on B-2 upgrades to support survivability and improve mission effectiveness.

The ESM contract is the latest award announced for the ongoing B-2 modernization effort. Northrop Grumman said in November that it had won a $109 million contract from the Air Force to redesign the aft fuselage of the bomber, which shields the composite airframe from engine exhaust.

Last May, the company announced a $372 million contract to begin designing the active electronically scanned array (AESA) antenna system under the second increment of the B-2 extremely high-frequency satellite communications program. The second increment installs a new communications terminal and the AESA antenna. A third increment will integrate the B-2 with the Global Information Grid.