THE US DEPARTMENT of Defense (DoD) has responded to criticism of the Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber, claiming that it is meeting stealth and operational requirements.

The comment follows allegations in the US press that the US Air Force has yet to demonstrate that the aircraft's design will meet some of its most important mission goals.

Among other things, a leaked US General Accounting Office (GAO) report is reputed to say that the B-2's radar cannot distinguish a rain cloud from a mountainside.

The GAO reportedly adds that the B-2 has failed to achieve radar signature performance, and that its structure does not meet design requirements.

Paul Kaminski, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, says that senior US Defence Department officials are satisfied with the aircraft's performance, but maintain that the USA needs no more than 20 B-2s.

"Testing to date has not identified any areas that will prevent the B-2 from performing its operational requirements. Standard analytical tools verify that the B-2's stealth design meets the operational requirements for survivability," says Kaminski. He says that the bomber's radar is performing as expected in rain.

A DoD study concludes that B-2 production should not be extended simply to retain stealth- aircraft manufacturing expertise.

"The unique industrial capabilities to produce composite structures and certain aspects of stealth are now available in the broader aircraft industry. Continuing B-2 production is thus unnecessary to preserve capabilities necessary to build a future bomber," the study concludes.

An earlier independent study ordered by the US Congress favoured additional procurement of precision-guided munitions over additional B-2s.

Source: Flight International