Spectrum Squeeze to K.O. B-2 Bomber’s Radar?
America’s 21 B-2A Spirit stealth bombers have been leaders in stealth technology and weapon support arrangements. Now, they’re a leader in a less desirable category. DTI’s Bill Sweetman reports that during a 2008 bandwidth auction, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission inadvertently sold the operating frequency band of the B-2 bomber’s Raytheon AN/APQ-181 radar to an obscure firm headed by a Russian-educated citizen of Mali. Installing new radar arrays on the 20 surviving jets will reportedly cost “well over $1 billion.”
Sweetman notes that this is just one side effect of spectrum allocation problems, and greater civilian appetites for its use. Patriot PAC-3 missiles that are critical to Japan’s missile defense system have problems there, because the radios used to link all the scattered firing units use frequencies assigned to the Japanese cell phone industry. The JTIDS predecessor to modern Link-16 MIDS-LVTs is currently the only way to get AWACS targeting data to an F-22, but it has “limited supportability outside the continental U.S.” because it was developed in an occupied band. Even flight testing and telemetry is beginning to have these problems.