The B-2 bomber has fired its first long-range stealth missile

The development is part of Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force's continued enhancements.
Loukia Papadopoulos
B-2 Spirit
B-2 Spirit

Air Force 

The US undertook a successful test launch of the stealthy long-range cruise missile, known as the JASSM-ER, from the payload bay of an airborne B-2 Spirit. The test was first announced by Northrop Grumman last Thursday, though it actually took place last December.

Hitting any target anywhere

“The B-2 successfully released a Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) during a flight test in December. The JASSM-ER further enhances the B-2’s ability to hit any target, anywhere. The integration of JASSM-ER enables the delivery of a low observable asset capable of traveling greater distances than its predecessor,” said the aerospace and defense technology company in a press release.

In total, three new advanced capabilities are being introduced to the B-2 to further modernize the platform of which JASSM-ER is one. The fleet of B-2s is actually slated for retirement pretty soon, but it is still picking up advanced new capabilities in the meantime.

The B-2 fleet, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear ordnance, is also integrating crypto modernization and a Radar Aided Targeting System (RATS). The latest system advancements are part of integrated functional capability (IFC) P6.4, which was certified last year by the Air Force. RATS will complete the latest phase of nuclear modernization of the B-2 Spirit.

“The unrivaled capabilities of the B-2 make it the only long range, penetrating stealth bomber currently in the U.S. arsenal,” said Shaugnessy Reynolds, vice president and B-2 program manager, Northrop Grumman. “Committed to continued modernization of the B-2, we’re leveraging our company’s innovation in digital engineering and its decades of leadership in designing and maintaining low observable platforms to keep the B-2 Spirit mission ready.”

B-2 Spirit is America’s ad the planet’s first operational heavy payload stealth bomber. It was first introduced in 1989 and entered service in 1997. The aircraft is exceedingly difficult to detect even for those low-frequency arrays.

The stealthiest operational aircraft in service today

Whereas stealth fighters like the F-35 and F-22 are not particularly difficult to detect using even low-frequency early-warning radar arrays, the B-2 is perhaps the stealthiest operational aircraft in service today, despite its being rather old. Now, it’s set to become even more efficient.

“The integration of RATS allows the B-2 to fully employ the B-61 mod 12 nuclear bomb. RATS is the key element of the nuclear modernization, as GPS may not be available during a bomber task force mission,” further stated Northrop Grumman in its release.

“Crypto modernization further improves the communications security of various high frequency transmissions. The B-2 may now securely utilize advanced communication devices in the future threat environment. Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman conducted a successful communications flight test with modern cryptology at its Oklahoma City Weapons System Support Center site.”

These latest advanced developments continue to position the B-2 fleet as a key component of the US Department of Defense’s nuclear triad. It is also part of Northrop Grumman’s continuous upgrading and modernization efforts that leverage 21st-century technology while implementing digital engineering.

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