Northrop Grumman Corp. has successfully completed – ahead of schedule – all field installations of a new radar system for the U.S. Air Force's fleet of B-2 stealth bombers.
Every operational B-2 is now equipped with the new radar, which was developed for the Air Force's B-2 Radar Modernization Program (RMP). It takes advantage of technology advancements that have occurred since the bomber was originally designed in the early 1980s.
Northrop Grumman is the Air Force's prime contractor for the B-2, the flagship of the nation's long-range strike arsenal. The fleet of 20 B-2s is operated by the 509th Bomb Wing from its headquarters at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
"Every installation of RMP hardware performed at Whiteman was completed ahead of schedule – on average three days early," said Ron Naylor, director of B-2 modernization and transformation for Northrop Grumman. "We returned every one of those jets to the Air Force anywhere from one to 11 days early."
The Whiteman RMP installs occurred in two blocks: five were completed during 2009 as part of the program's system development and demonstration phase. Ten more were completed between the third quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2012 as part of the RMP production contract.
"We also beat by six days the program's installation schedule for the B-2 Spirit of Texas, which was returned to the Air Force from the programmed depot maintenance (PDM) process in late June," added Naylor. PDM is performed periodically on every B-2 at Northrop Grumman's facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Northrop Grumman's ability to consistently beat the RMP installation schedule can be attributed, in part, to its disciplined planning and execution processes, said Chad Hartmann, the company's B-2 production program manager.
"We worked actively with the Air Force to identify and purchase long-lead items that were part of our critical production path. That approach helped us ensure a seamless production process," he said.
Northrop Grumman also used a second advanced procurement process with RMP called a Life of Type buy. Under this approach, the company worked out agreements with the government and RMP suppliers to purchase all the spare parts needed for the anticipated operational life of the system, thereby avoiding future parts obsolescence issues.