The B-2 Spirit, or B-2 stealth bomber, is getting a stealthy composite makeover. The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman are aiming to improve the bomber’s service longevity, durability, and sustainment by incorporating a new, heat resistant “hot trailing edge” (HTE) on the upper surface of the craft.

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The Challenges Of Aircraft Heat And Exhaust

According to the Air Force, The B-2’s current HTE polyimide skin quickly degrades under the bomber’s operating condition. Constant heat and engine exhaust exposure can cause the polyimide to crack and its resin deteriorates.

A Resistant, Composite Skin 

The new composite HTE will serve to mitigate this issue and help eliminate the repairs in the field. AFR PE 4, a high-temperature thermostetting polyimide resin, was engineered by the Air Force Research Lab to suit this new application. The composite resin is capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 343 degrees Celsius and serves to resist vibroacoustic stress. It will be applied behind the exhaust nozzles on the upper surface of the B-2.

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Keeping The Spirit Stealthy In The Skies

The upgrade is part of an effort to enhance the stealth of the aircraft by reducing its heat signature and its potential for detection by enemy infrared/thermal sensors. The new composite skin is a sustainability measure that, along with other modernization efforts like the “DMS-M” unit, aims to ensure the 1980s-era stealth bomber will remain a viable and reliable craft into the middle of this century. The Air Force is working to ensure that the B-2 Spirit will continue to fly alongside the emerging B-21 Raider stealth bombers.


What are your thoughts on this improvement to the B-2 stealth bomber? Are you eager to see what other improvements are underway for this impressive aircraft? Comment and tell us what you think.

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