Orbital ATK has received an initial $90 million contract from Northrop Grumman to produce composite components for the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber with an option for follow-on orders. Under the terms of the 5-year contract, Orbital ATK will perform Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) and produce 17 Hot Trailing Edge (HTE) composite parts.
Back in 2010, the Air Force Research Laboratory reported that it intended to implement a new HTE skin on the B-2 bomber that will be composed of AFR-PE-4 high-temperature polyimide. Located behind the exhaust nozzles on the aircraft’s upper surface, the B-2 HTE experiences repeated thermal and vibro-acoustic stress. The polyimide material that was used before for HTEs degrades quickly as the incessant exposure to heat and engine exhaust exceeds its capabilities, the material cracks and the resin disintegrates.
By using the new composite, the lab hopes to virtually eliminate field repairs, reduce downtime, and achieve higher mission capability rates for B-2 aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is a key component of the nation’s long-range strike arsenal, and one of the most survivable aircraft in the world. Its unique capabilities, including its stealth characteristics, allow it to penetrate the most sophisticated enemy defenses and hold at risk high value, heavily defended targets.
“We are honored to partner with Northrop Grumman to extend the service life of the B-2 bomber,” said Steve Earl, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division. “This program capitalizes on our core competency of providing advanced composite structures that use innovative Orbital ATK manufacturing processes to fit our customer’s needs.”
Production will take place at Orbital ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division facility in Dayton, Ohio, later this year.