The U.S government is calling upon its industry leaders to reverse engineer parts of its Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Details of the call to action were shared on the government’s contracting website, beta.SAM.gov.
The notice was first caught and shared on Twitter by Mark Thompson, a national security analyst, who pointed out how ironic it is that the U.S. now has to reverse engineer its own parts — something he states the Chinese did when adopting U.S. technology.
A point Thompson makes is how surprising the move is given the B-2 Spirit is from American company Northrop Grumman, costing a solid $2.4 billion. So why have to reverse engineer its components?
Raise your hand if you remember when “reverse engineering” was how the Chinese stole U.S. technology. Looks like the U.S. now has to do it on itself—on a $2.4 billion bomber. Maybe we didn’t get the blueprints from Northrop?https://t.co/2UWDLKEXe6 pic.twitter.com/wHiDZx3Loq
— Mark Thompson (@MarkThompson_DC) March 1, 2021
In any case, the U.S. government is looking “to reverse engineer the core of the B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers, develop disassembly process to remove defective cores, develop a stacking, vacuum brazing and welding process to manufacture new heat exchanger cores and to develop a welding process to install the new cores on existing B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers,” as it states on the site.
This requirement seemingly includes reverse engineering specific processes, such as the re-core process for the stealth bomber’s Load Heat Exchangers, which use air and Ethylene Glycol Water liquid to create cold air for its cooling system.
It’s not exactly clear which part of the bomber’s systems these heat exchangers relate to, though.
A little more digging shows that the deliverables the U.S. Air Force expects from this reverse engineering include all technical data linked to the heat exchanger disassembly, its related cores, its stack up, vacuum brazing, and installation of these cores onto existing components.
On top of that, all creations will be made into prototypes to be analyzed and tested, and once all testing qualifications are met, a “qualified source of repair shall be provided that is capable of remanufacturing the B‐2 Load Heat Exchangers per the aforementioned deliverables.”
It’s clear to see this is a reverse engineering process, although it remains unclear why it’s having to happen. Perhaps the original blueprints are no longer available, or the manufacturing process of these components has altered or disappeared.