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, program 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.
The CVR Increment 1 program reached its milestone B on July 23, which authorized the program to enter the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase and award Engineering Manufacturing Development contracts. During this phase, the program will develop the VLF communications system, complete full system integration and test on the B-2, develop an affordable and executable manufacturing process, and ensure operational supportability, Doolittle said.
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 program 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.