B-2 com­mu­ni­ca­tions up­grade


Af­ter a 20-year wait, the B-2 Spirit will re­ceive a sig­nif­i­cant new com­mu­ni­ca­tions up­grade. The first in­cre­ment of the com­mon very low fre­quency re­ceiver, or CVR, pro­gramme was de­signed to be a suc­ces­sor to the very low fre­quency com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem orig­i­nally slated to be in­cluded with the B-2’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion pack­age. The orig­i­nal sys­tem was de­ferred in 1992 be­cause of bud­get con­straints.

“CVR In­cre­ment 1 will pro­vide the B-2 air­crew another, more re­li­able means to re­ceive pres­i­den­tial force di­rec­tion via emer­gency ac­tion mes­sages,” said Gary Doolit­tle, Air Force Global Strike Com­mand B-2 re­quire­ments.

Cur­rently, the B-2 uses an ul­tra-high fre­quency com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem to fill that role. How­ever, the Mil­i­tary Strate­gic Tac­ti­cal and Re­lay, MILSTAR, satel­lites that fa­cil­i­tate that form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are ap­proach­ing the end of their op­er­a­tional life, Doolit­tle said.

The up­graded com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem would al­low the B-2 to re­ceive very low fre­quency sig­nals bounced off of lower lev­els of the at­mos­phere, by­pass­ing the satel­lite re­lay. This would en­sure the B-2 re­mains a vi­able nu­clear plat­form un­til such time as a re­place­ment for cur­rent satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions can be de­ployed.

Though CVR In­cre­ment 1 is de­signed purely for use on the B-2 Spirit, a pro­posed sec­ond in­cre­ment would ex­pand the sys­tem into other plat­forms such as the B-52 Strato­fortress and the E-4B Ad­vanced Air­borne Com­mand Post, Doolit­tle said.

“In­cre­ment 2 would pro­vide a broader set of longer-term ca­pa­bil­ity up­grades across the en­tire air­borne nu­clear com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tions fleet,” he said, adding that In­cre­ment 2 re­quire­ments and ac­qui­si­tion strate­gies are cur­rently in de­vel­op­ment.

With CVR In­cre­ment 1 now reach­ing mile­stone B, the pro­gramme is on track to be­gin field­ing in 2017. The ca­pa­bil­i­ties it brings will help en­sure the B-2 will con­tinue to be a pre­mier weapon sys­tem far into the fore­see­able fu­ture.

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