The U.S. Air Force recently signed a new maintenance agreement with Northrop Grumman to increase the number of B-2 stealth bombers available for combat and to reduce fleet sustainment costs.

Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will give each B-2 an end-to-end overhaul – a process called programmed depot maintenance (PDM) – once every nine years. Each jet currently undergoes PDM once every seven years. The process, which includes a complete restoration of the jet's exterior surfaces, will be performed at the company's Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in Palmdale, California.

"This new approach to B-2 maintenance is a win-win for the Air Force and the nation," said Brig. Gen. Eric Fick. "It will enhance the jet's readiness to conduct global security missions and is expected to save taxpayers about $900 million in maintenance costs over the life of the fleet."

The new nine-year overhaul cycle will reduce the average length of B-2 PDM to 365 days, down from more than 400 days in previous years. Under the new rhythm, Northrop Grumman will induct a B-2 into PDM approximately once every six months.

"The nine-year PDM cycle is part of an aggressive ongoing effort by Northrop Grumman and the Air Force to increase bomber availability," said Pat McMahon, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems vice president and general manager. "Our experienced workforce has critically reviewed every PDM material and process for potential improvements. As a result, we've been able to reduce the length of the PDM process and increase the time between PDM periods."

As the only long-range, large-payload U.S. military aircraft that can penetrate deeply into denied-access enemy air space, the B-2 can fly 6,000 nautical miles without refueling and more than 10,000 nautical miles with just one aerial refueling, giving it the ability to reach any point on the globe within hours.

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