The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber of the United States Air Force fired AGM-158B JASSM-ER cruise missiles. This historical occurrence is a crucial aspect of Northrop Grumman’s ongoing mission of aircraft upgrading.

The test flight happened in December, but the company didn’t say anything about it until today (25). Northrop says that the JASSM-ER makes it even easier for the B-2 to hit any target, anywhere. “The integration of JASSM-ER makes it possible to deliver an asset that is hard to see and can travel farther than its predecessor.”

The AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile) is a stealth cruise missile that has been in use by the United States Air Force (USAF) since 2009. 

It was developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Armed Forces. The weapon has a 370 km range and can penetrate hardened targets like hangars and bunkers with its 450-kilogram explosive payload.

B-2 stealth bomber

The AGM-158C LRASM, a new long-range anti-ship missile for the US Navy, is based on the JASSM-ER (Extended Range) model that entered service in 2014 and has a range of 925 to 1000 km.

JASSM-ER is one of three new high-tech features added to the B-2 to make the platform even more up-to-date. The fleet of stealth bombers will also get updates to their encryption and the new Radar-Assisted Targeting System (RATS), which was tested in June. The RATS will be used to control GPS-guided nuclear bombs, like the B61 Mod. 12 in this case.

The most recent system upgrades are part of the P6.4 Integrated Functional Capability (IFC), which was validated by the Air Force last year. The RATS will finish the final phase of the nuclear upgrade on the B-2 Spirit.

Shaugnessy Reynolds, vice president and B-2 program manager at Northrop Grumman, said that the B-2 is the only long-range, penetrating stealth bomber in the US arsenal right now.

“Committed to the ongoing modernization of the B-2, we are leveraging our company’s innovation in digital engineering and its decades of leadership in the design and maintenance of low-observation platforms to keep the B-2 Spirit’s mission ready.”

Modernization of encryption makes multi-high frequency transmission communications even safer.

Now, the B-2 can use high-tech communication tools safely in a future threat environment.

At its Oklahoma City Weapon System Support Center, Northrop Grumman did a successful test of modern cryptology in a communications flight earlier this year.

Integration of RATS makes it possible for the B-2 to fully use the B-61 mod 12 nuclear bombs. Due to the possibility that GPS would be unavailable during a bomber task force flight, RATS is the most essential component of nuclear modernization.

B-2 stealth bomber
B61-12 JTA bomb being loaded into the B-2 for RATS system testing. Photo USAF.

Twenty B-2 bombers are currently in service with the United States Air Force. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri serves as the primary headquarters for the aircraft, and the 13th and 393rd Bomb Squadrons are responsible for its operation there. 

The B-21 Raider is a new stealth bomber that Northrop Grumman is also developing. In the not-too-distant future, the B-21 Raider will take the place of the B-2.