PALMDALE, Calif., Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force is overhauling maintenance and restoration of its B-2 stealth bombers, shortening maintenance periods to keep more aircraft mission-ready.
The Air Force is working with contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation in an effort to improve the B-2's readiness and sustainability. Under the contract signed by both parties in April, each jet will undergo a complete restoration process known as programmed depot maintenance (PDM). Currently, each jet is subject to PDM procedures once every seven years. Under the new contract, the B-2's will undergo this process once every nine years instead.
Brig. Gen. Eric Fick, the Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Bombers for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, calls the agreement a "win-win" for the Air Force and Northrop Grumman.
"It will enhance the jet's readiness to conduct global security missions, and is expected to save taxpayers about $900 million in maintenance costs over the life of the fleet," Fick said of the new contract.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Vice President Pat McMahon shares Fick's enthusiasm, saying the increased length of time between PDM periods allows bombers to be more readily available when the need arises. In addition to the amount of time between PDM periods being increased from seven years to nine years, the average duration of the procedure will also be reduced from 400 days to 365 days.
"Our delivery of the B-2 Spirit of Ohio back to the Air Force in August marked the last time we expect to have more than two jets in PDM at any one time," McMahon said. "Fewer jets undergoing PDM in Palmdale will keep more B-2s ready to serve the nation's security needs."
The B-2 bomber remains an invaluable asset for long-range combat operations, capable of flying 6,000 nautical miles without having to be refueled. It is the only long-range, large-payload U.S. military aircraft proven to push into hard to access enemy airspace.
The agreement comes ahead of the Air Force's selection of a contractor for the Long-Range Strike Bomber. The LRS-B contract, set to be awarded this month, will go to either Northrop Grumman or a joint partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.